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The clock is ticking on the NHL and its players association as the September 15th deadline approaches. Both parties need to bridge a wide gap in the collective bargaining negotiations or face another lockout.

On Thursday, Commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear after the bargaining session in New York that the league is prepared to lockout its players when the current agreement expires on September 15.

Here is an exurb of the Commissioner’s interview with reporters outside the New York offices:

“I re-confirmed something that the union has been told multiple times over the last nine to 12 months. Namely, that time is getting short and the owners are not prepared to operate under this collection bargaining agreement for another so, we need to get to making a deal and doing it soon. And we believe there’s ample time for the parties to get together and make a deal and that’s what we’re going to be working towards.”

Time is becoming a factor for both parties as the deadline approaches. During the Stanley Cup Finals, Commissioner Gary Bettman said that talk of a lockout was “nothing more than speculation at this point.” That speculation could become reality if a deal is not brokered before September 15th. However, both parties still believe there is enough time to get a deal done before the current collective bargaining agreement expires.

It has been about a month since the NHL laid out its vision for the new CBA. The July 13 proposal to the NHL PA included an immediate 24 percent reduction in salaries, the introductions of several new restrictions on contracts and a redefinition of hockey-related revenue that would see the percentage paid to player ach season drop 57 to 43.

Donald Fehr and the players association are set to make a counter-proposal next week during CBA meetings in Toronto. It is expected that proposal will come on Tuesday. The union received thousands of financial documents after the initial proposal by the league and was flustered by what was being proposed by the league.

According to Donald Fehr, one change the players will try to seek is a broadening of the revenue-sharing system between teams. “We made a presentation directly related to the owners’ proposal – revenue sharing system as it would be combined with the player compensation system that they had proposed,’ said Fehr.

The union believes that both overall and on a club-by-club basis, all of the revenue-sharing payments would be paid by player salary reductions. However, the commissioner indicated that there are fundamental economic issues that are more of the key elements to the negotiations than just revenue sharing.

The biggest question that faced both parties during the lockout in 2004-05 was whether or not to have a salary cap. This time around the biggest is question facing both parties is how to split hockey related revenue. Therefore, people around the game of hockey have more optimism.

From Jesse Specter of the Sporting News on the main issue of the new CBA:

“The owners’ main financial goal is controlling costs of player contracts, as evidenced by their proposal to cut the players’ share of hockey-related revenues from 57 percent to 46 percent. Doing so would appear to be fixing the symptoms (small-market teams struggling to keep up with the spending ability of their big-market brethren), rather than the disease (the ability of the big-market teams to consistently access better revenue streams, creating that advantage).”

The talk of a lockout is frustrating many fans of the National Hockey League. They have already witnessed two lockouts under the commissioner’s tenure. One caused a 48-game season and the most recent one caused the cancellation of an entire season. Many fans feel that the league is at an all time high with viewership and revenue. They do not understand why the parties cannot continue to negotiate and open training camps under the current system that produced $1 Billion dollars.

This is something NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has proposed. Fehr said, “Under the law, if an agreement expires, that may give someone the legal ability to go on strike or in this case to impose a lockout. There’s no requirement that they do so and if nobody does anything you (can) continue to work under the old conditions.”

However, this is something the NHL is unwilling to do. So over the next five weeks the pace of the talks will need to pick up or else be faced with a third lockout under the term of Gary Bettman as Commissioner of the NHL.