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NHL LABOR : Talks Reportedly Progressing Amid Fears

November 08, 1994|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Under pressure from club owners--some of whom say they will lose as much as $15 million if the season is canceled--the NHL appears to be softening its stance toward its players. A source independent of both sides in the dispute said league officials are considering allowing the season to start while they continue bargaining with the players' association, a course they have twice rejected.

An NHL delegation, led by Commissioner Gary Bettman and supplemented by general managers Bob Clarke of Philadelphia and Lou Lamoriello of New Jersey, met for seven hours Monday in New York with Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHL Players Assn., and Mike Gartner and Ken Baumgartner of the union's negotiating committee. It was learned they agreed to temporarily halt discussing levies on club payrolls, their greatest source of disagreement.

A management source interpreted their willingness to meet again Thursday, probably in Toronto, as a positive sign, saying they would not have arranged another session if no progress had been made Monday.

Time is running out for playing a meaningful schedule. The NHL, which has canceled 14 games in each club's 84-game schedule, is working on a new, 50-game schedule in which teams would play only conference rivals. It would be preceded by a training camp of seven to 10 days and one exhibition game. To accomplish that, an agreement would have to be reached by the middle or end of December and play would have to begin by early January. Bettman has said he will not extend the playoffs past June.

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