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NHL players, league will discuss topics not related to revenue Friday

“There are number things thneed be worked out” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. | Getty Images

“There are a number of things that need to be worked out,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. | Getty Images

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Updated: October 29, 2012 7:00AM

It doesn’t matter that the distribution of hockey-related revenue — the most contentious factor hindering negotiations — won’t be discussed when the NHL Players Association and the league meet Friday in New York for the first time since the lockout began.

Blackhawks players fully grasp the significance of the other topics on the table, including arbitration rights, scheduling, discipline and drug testing.

“It’s all important,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “There are a number of things that need to be worked out.”

Meanwhile, the window to figure it all out and avoid the loss of regular-season games keeps shrinking. The NHL cancelled the rest of the preseason Thursday.

Hawks union representative Steve Montador told the Sun-Times on Thursday that more meetings might be scheduled if things go well Friday. Multiple reports also indicated that the union and league blocked off times Saturday and Sunday for potential meetings.

The Hawks had two preseason games left — Oct. 5 at Pittsburgh and Oct. 6 against the Flyers — after the NHL cancelled games through Sept. 30. The regular season is scheduled to open Oct. 11. The Hawks’ season opener is Oct. 13 against the Blue Jackets.

The substantial and immediate paycut being demanded of the players has received the most attention; the players say they won’t accept it. But the changes the owners are seeking to contract lengths, arbitration rules, pensions, benefits and so on haven’t been forgotten.

“All those things have a huge impact on the players and on the game,” Jonathan Toews said. “It’s probably one of those things right now that is being overshadowed by the revenue-sharing and the big issues that have been really talked about in the last couple of months. But it doesn’t mean they’re not important.”

For instance, the owners’ initial proposal called for the elimination of salary arbitration, the extension of entry-level contracts from three years to five, a five-year maximum length for contracts and eligibility for unrestricted free agency to begin after 10 years of service.

“They’re all issues that are important to all of us, to all the players,” Dave Bolland said. “Arbitration or anything. You never know with all the little things that can happen.”

Under the previous collective-bargaining agreement, entry-level deals were three years and unrestricted free agency could begin after seven years.

“In the last agreement, at least there was significant movement in the players’ direction on the players’ contracting issues, like salary arbitration and free agency,” ­NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said during the union’s most recent New York meetings.

“What’s on the table now [from the owners] appears to say we have to have salary concessions all over again, plus we have to go in the owners’ direction in all the players’ contracting issues and undo that portion of the last agreement. Less money, fewer rights.”

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