NHL

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Ping-Pong name of the game

Tough to keep track of moves

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LET’S get this straight. The NHLPA will now put together a counter-offer to the NHL’s counter-offer of the NHLPA’s counter-offer of the NHL’s offer from last Thursday.

 Got it straight? Good for you, consider yourself ahead of the curve and move to the front of the class.

 Keeping track is getting tough as the league and its players’ union have begun swapping proposals and negotiating on a near-daily basis. CBA Ping-Pong has finally begun as the deadline for losing this NHL season rapidly approaches.

 The general consensus among media and hockey types is that a deal will get done but there can be no certainty with time running out and both sides still intent on scraping up a few more crumbs.

 The major issues remaining between the two sides include:

 ❚ Players’ pension fund (players want more league money set aside for pensions)

 ❚ Length of the CBA (league wants a 10-year deal and players want eight years)

 ❚ Contract term (league wants to limit contracts to six years while players want eight years)

 ❚ 2013-14 salary cap (league wants a cap of $60 million while players want $67.5 million) The NHL handed the players another comprehensive offer late Tuesday night and the union said it would take the night to review it and hopefully be prepared for another sit-down sometime today.

 CBA catch-all

SEASON SCRUB: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said he will not allow a season less than 48 games and that it must begin no later than Jan. 19. Teams will need a week to get players into camp and hold a few training sessions. The best guess on the street right now is that Bettman will cancel the season on or close to Jan. 11 if a new CBA is not in place.

 DISCLAIMER OF INTEREST: The players voted two weeks ago to give their executive committee the power to file a disclaimer of interest and in effect dissolve the union. Today marks the end of the period the executive has to file. The union can always call for another vote and put the disclaimer back in play if they decide not to file today.

 SCHEDULE STUFF: The NHL has two schedules ready to go. A 52-game schedule beginning on Jan. 12 and a 48-game slate kicking off on Jan. 19. Both schedules would see teams play only against teams in their own conference. The regular season would end in late April and teams would play on average 3.20 games per week. Something like four games one week and three the next.

 STRATEGY SESSION: Both the union and NHL have grown tight-lipped in recent days, but there are still issues we know they haven’t solved. Union leader Don Fehr still insists the sides are very close on all major issues.

 Now that bargaining has begun it appears it will continue until the clock is about to run out. The league would like to wrap things up quickly to try and salvage a 52-game season but the union seems content to move a little slower.

 The players have already paid a major financial price and for them another week appears to be a cost they are willing to accept if it gets them additional gains in the deal. If a deal isn’t done in the next 48 hours, this will drag into the middle of next week or later.

 gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter:@garylawless

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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