Ice Hockey: Season on hold as owners reject latest union proposal: Claim and counter-claim keep the League in turmoil as fans wait and playing days slip away

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE National Hockey League season was put on hold indefinitely on Tuesday when Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, announced that the latest players' union proposal has been unanimously rejected by the league's Board of Governors.

Bettman said the season will not start until an agreement has been reached. The rejection of the union's counter-proposal assures that the 78th NHL season will not begin on the postponed 15 October start date.

'The board decided unanimously not to open the season until there is a new collective bargaining agreement,' Bettman said.

'The board is a little baffled over the course of conduct of the union over the last 10 days with inexplicable delays in meeting, delays in making proposals; and frankly, it was the board's view that the proposal made yesterday was in fact a step backwards.' Bettman said that after four hours of 'candid, frank and gut-wrenching discussion', the board decided not to open the season Saturday.

'We told Bob Goodenow (the union chief) that we're still anxious to get together to resume negotiations,' Bettman said. Goodenow reacted angrily to the news from New York.

'Today's unfortunate decision by the NHL to reject our compromise proposal and continue the lockout makes it absolutely clear the NHL is not interested in the fans, the game or the small market club,' he said. 'They are committed to only one thing, a major fight with the players.'

The union rejected two league proposals last Wednesday and on Monday turned in its counter-proposal. The union offered to reduce their proposed tax on gate receipts to 3 per cent from 5.5 per cent and player payrolls would be taxed at a higher rate than the union had previously wanted.

The plan was supposed to produce a revenue-sharing pool of about pounds 30m to assist struggling small market clubs. But the governors were highly critical of the latest union proposal, saying it did not begin to address many of their primary concerns.

'We're flexible but I see very little reason for hope,' he said.

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