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NHL lockout lumbers on after owners reject proposal

Champs for Charity Team Chicago Vs Team World Hockey Game. Team Chicago No.19 Jonathan Toews celebrates after his first period

Champs for Charity, Team Chicago Vs Team World Hockey Game. Team Chicago No.19 Jonathan Toews celebrates after his first period goal. October 26 , 2012 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Is the end of the NHL lockout in sight?

At one point Thursday night, the end sounded imminent. NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr told reporters in New York that there’s “a complete agreement on dollars” and other areas.

Moments later, any optimism ended abruptly. The NHL informed Fehr that the owners had rejected the players’ latest proposal after days filled with negotiations.

In other words, despite gaining traction from the long meetings in New York this week, the NHL’s lockout of players persists. With no collective-bargaining agreement in place and talks essentially stalled again, more cancellations are expected soon. The lockout has resulted in the cancellation of 422 regular-season games, the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.

“It’s disappointing, yet again, that we make another offer and it’s turned down,” Blackhawks players representative Steve Montador said in an email to the Sun-Times. “We’ll discuss further what to do next in the coming hours [and] days.”

The meetings this week in New York included players, such as Hawks captain Jonathan Toews and Penguins star Sidney Crosby, negotiating directly with a group of owners, while Fehr and Bettman sat out. Offers were exchanged, and concessions were made.

But Thursday concluded with the NHL pulling everything they offered off the table. The most notable item pulled was the $300 million “Make Whole” proposal, which would have helped the players as their share of hockey-related revenue drops.

If anything, things have gotten even more contentious.

“It’s not the first time [Fehr] said we’re close when we weren’t,” Bett­man told reporters. “I don’t know why he did that. ... I find it almost incomprehensible that he did that.”

Bettman said the owners felt insulted by the players’ proposal, saying “they were beside themselves.” After taking part in negotiations, owners Ron Burkle (Penguins), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto Maple Leafs), Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets) and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning) issued heated statements blaming the NHLPA.

“I question whether the union is interested in making an agreement,” Tanenbaum said.

Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey told reporters that the NHL told the players that bringing Fehr back to the negotiating table could potentially be “a deal-breaker.” Some players took to Twitter to defend Fehr.

“This looks like it’s not going to be resolved in the immediate future,” Fehr told reporters. “I hope that turns out to be wrong, but that’s certainly what the message is that we have today. And that’s notwithstanding the fact that we are clearly very close, if not on top of one another, in connection with most of the major issues. I don’t know when discussions will ­resume.”

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