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January 3, 2013

Union responds to latest NHL offer in labor talks

NEW YORK — The NHL players’ association delivered its latest counteroffer to the league Wednesday as the two sides try to resolve the lockout.

That makes four offers between the sides since the NHL restarted the negotiation process Thursday with a new contract proposal. What has become a major point of contention is how a player’s pension will be funded.

A small group meeting on the pension issue was held Wednesday morning before the players’ association presented its latest offer to the league during a one-hour afternoon meeting. A deal can’t be done without a resolution on pensions.

The union and the NHL could meet again later Wednesday after the league looks over the proposal. The league presented the players with a counteroffer Tuesday night.

The lockout has reached its 109th day, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that the league told the union a deal needs to be in place by Jan. 11 so a 48-game season can begin eight days later. All games through Jan. 14 along with the All-Star game have been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule.

Wednesday night is the deadline for the players’ association to declare a “disclaimer of interest,” which would dissolve the union and make it a trade association. That would allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.

If the deadline passes, union members could vote again to authorize their board to file a disclaimer at a later date.

“The players retain their option and it’s an internal matter,” players’ association executive director Donald Fehr said Wednesday.

The league didn’t make any statements after the meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Fehr believed an agreement on a players-funded pension had been reached before talks blew up in early December. That apparently wasn’t the case, or the NHL has changed its offer regarding the pension in exchange for agreeing to other things the union wanted.

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