Bettman says he’s ready to bargain whenever NHL players union ready; contract expires Sept.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday he’s ready to meet with the players union to negotiate a new contract, but it’s up to the union to decide when that might happen.

Bettman said that the NHL Players’ Association hasn’t yet indicated that it’s ready.

“That’s something that we’re relying on the union for right now,” Bettman said of the timing on talks. “We’ve been ready to go for months but there’s a new executive director and he’s getting up to speed, meeting with his constituents and when the union’s ready, then we’ll start.”

Donald Fehr, who previously led the union for Major League Baseball players, became executive director of the NHLPA in December 2010.

Union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said in an emailed statement that the union was meeting with players to prepare for negotiations.

“At our request, the NHL recently supplied the NHLPA with some initial financial information that we are currently reviewing,” Weatherdon said. “While we do not have a set date for formal negotiations to begin, we expect negotiations will begin when we have players available to participate in bargaining sessions.”

The Stanley Cup finals are scheduled to end in June.

Bettman declined to say what the league is looking for in renewing the seven-year deal set to expire Sept. 15.

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“I don’t discuss what we’re looking for in collective bargaining publicly,” he said. “That’s best done across the table with the principals.”

He met with team presidents at the Encore Las Vegas hotel-casino, the site of the NHL Awards in June. Bettman said they discussed marketing initiatives, TV contracts and general business, and got a rundown of how the awards show will be hosted.

Revenue sharing is expected to play a large role in the talks, with NHL owners wanting to cut the players’ share of league revenues from 57 per cent.

But the league wants to avoid a work stoppage like the one that shut down the 2004-2005 season.

The current contract was the league’s first with a salary cap.

“Obviously, the system we have made some important fundamental and dramatic improvements,” Bettman said. “We have, as I said, great competitive balance but I’m not getting into the specifics.”

Team owners are expected to meet in Las Vegas when the awards are held. The show was moved this year from the Palms Casino Resort under a new three-year deal between the league, the Encore and the local agency that promotes tourism to Las Vegas.


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