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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Players working on plans for pact

Negotiations start with NHL on Friday

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CHICAGO -- Let the games begin.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association are scheduled to kick off formal talks on a new collective bargaining agreement in New York on Friday, according to multiple sources.

Anxious fans have been waiting months for the two sides to open negotiations on a deal that is set to expire Sept. 15. Although a season was lost the last time they went to the bargaining table, there has been a slight hint of optimism in the air at the NHLPA's executive board meetings this week.

"We have a few months ahead here to reach a deal, and that's our goal," New York Islanders star John Tavares said Tuesday.

In all, the union has gathered 53 players together for three days of comprehensive meetings before talks open. They were split into three breakout groups Tuesday afternoon and combed over a number of topics expected to be raised during CBA discussions -- everything from desired changes to the current financial system to player safety and on-ice issues.

More than half the players who travelled to Chicago lived through the 2004-05 lockout and they've gone out of their way to talk about the experience with younger union members.

There is hope that the past won't have to be repeated to get something done this time.

Under the current CBA, the NHL has seen its revenues grow from US$2.1 billion annually to roughly $3.3 billion, and there's very little to suggest the trend won't continue.

"The league's doing really well," said St. Louis Blues forward David Backes. "There's been increased revenues -- record revenues -- every year. It's on a track that seems like almost exponential growth. To halt that would be a shame on both sides."

The NHL is expected to try to lower the players' take of overall league revenue from the current 57 per cent, and the union will attempt to redesign the revenue-sharing system so the wealthy teams are required to do a better job of supporting the struggling ones.

NOTES: The Montreal Canadiens signed checking forward Ryan White to a one-year, US$687,500 contract Tuesday.

The 24-year-old White, a Brandon native, earned $625,000 last season. The right-winger had three assists in 20 games last year with Montreal after suffering a sports hernia during training camp.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2012 D2

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