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Negotiations on new CBA quietly resume in Toronto

(Reuters) - A day after the opening two weeks of the National Hockey League (NHL) season were canceled, owners and players quietly returned to the bargaining table on Friday, fanning hopes a new collective bargaining agreement might be in reach.

The NHL confirmed on its website that commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with the head of the NHL players association (NHLPA) Donald Fehr and his chief lieutenant and brother Steve Fehr at the union's headquarters in downtown Toronto.

"Yes we had a meeting," said Daly. "Nothing else to report at this time."

There were no specifics about what topics were discussed or when the next meeting will take place.

Details were sparse but the fact the leaders were once again at the negotiating table was seen as positive sign after a week of bad news and heated rhetoric.

The meeting was the first since talks broke off on Tuesday in New York, which was followed by the league announcement on Thursday that it was cancelling regular season games.

The 82 games wiped off the schedule marked the first time regular season action was canceled since a lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

The NHL imposed a lockout, which essentially halted all league operations, when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired 19 days ago with the owners and players at odds over how to divide a $3.3 billion revenue pie.

The NHL, which enjoyed record-breaking revenues last season, had most recently offered its players a six-year deal, with an initial 49 percent share of revenues dipping to 47 percent over the term of the agreement.

Players received 57 percent of revenue under the old deal.

The latest proposal from the players' union was tied to projected future revenues with players willing to take a smaller slice of the pie as the league grows. The union's offer opened with players earning 54.3 percent of revenues, dipping to 52.7 percent.

The league had already said it would lose about $100 million in revenue from its earlier decision to scrap the entire two-week preseason schedule.

Over 100 players, including Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and the league's most valuable player Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have since signed deals to play in Europe while the NHL sorts out its fourth work stoppage in 20 years.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden)

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