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NHL lockout begins as CBA expires

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The NHL locked out its players following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement at midnight ET Saturday, signaling the league's fourth work stoppage since 1992.

Owners unanimously voted to support a lockout, and no new negotiations have been scheduled.

"We spoke today and determined that there was no point in convening a formal bargaining session in light of the fact that neither side is in a position to move off of its last proposal," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement earlier Saturday.

"I'm sure we will keep in touch in the coming days and schedule meetings to the extent they might be useful or appropriate. We are sorry for where we are. Not what we hoped or expected."

The NHL and the NHL Players Association last met on Wednesday, and the NHLPA was denied its request for an immediate injunction against the impending lockout by the Quebec Labour Relations Board on Friday. However, the board plans to continue to hear the case, ESPNNewYork.com reported.

''We suggested that the parties meet in advance of the owners' self-imposed deadline of midnight tonight,'' Steve Fehr, the brother of NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, said in a statement Saturday. ''Don Fehr, myself and several players on the Negotiating Committee were in the City and prepared to meet. The NHL said that it saw no purpose in having a formal meeting.

''There have been and continue to be private, informal discussions between representatives of both sides.''

The owners imposed the Saturday deadline, and Commissioner Gary Bettman has long stated that the league had no intention of operating another season under the current CBA terms. The regular season is slated to begin Oct. 11 and training camps are due to open next week, but those plans are all on hold.

The 2004-05 work stoppage wiped out the season. In order to end that impasse, the players accepted a salary-cap system and a 24 percent rollback of existing contracts in exchange for 57 percent of hockey-related revenues.

At issue now is Bettman's contention that hockey management wants economic gains and that the 57 percent figure is too high, while the NHLPA believes the revenue-sharing formula needs to be reexamined and that the players should not be asked to make further concessions. The league's first offer was a reduction to 43 percent of hockey-related revenues, although that has since risen to at least 46 percent in recent negotiations. Meanwhile, the players are seeking a deal that would guarantee at least the $1.8 billion in salaries paid out in the 2011-12 season annually, according to multiple reports.

The players were prompted to make their Friday case that any lockout imposed by the league would be illegal since their union is not recognized as certified under Quebec labor law.

The board held an emergency hearing Friday morning on behalf of 16 players from the Montreal Canadiens who made the filing. It later rejected the players request to delay any work stoppage imposed by the league's owners.

"We are pleased with the ruling that the Commission released tonight," NHLPA general counsel Don Zavelo said in a statement Friday. "While the Commission denied the players' request for emergency relief, it also rejected the NHL's request to dismiss the case. The ruling acknowledges that the players have raised issues about the legality of the NHL's planned lockout that require a full hearing on the merits.

"We remain confident that the lockout is prohibited by the Quebec Labour Code and look forward to presenting our case to the Commission in the near future. Should the NHL carry out its threat to lock out the players in Quebec, it will do so at its own risk."

The players are still looking for other means of stalling the lockout. Several Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames players appealed to the Alberta Labour Relations Board to challenge a work stoppage. The board confirmed that a meeting will be held on Sept. 21.
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