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Players present counteroffer in bid to end lockout

National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman describes negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) regard
National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman describes negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) regard

(Reuters) - National Hockey League (NHL) officials and locked out players returned to the bargaining table in New York on Monday with the union presenting a counteroffer to the league's latest proposal for solving their bitter labor dispute.

The NHL is expected to respond to the union offer on Tuesday as both sides bid to end a dispute which has already wiped out more than half the season.

"Their response was a comprehensive one, dealing with the full slate of issues that we raised in the proposals we put forth," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters.

"We're in the process of reviewing their response. We will do that tonight and our expectation is that we will contact them morning to arrange to get back together."

Bettman also confirmed the "puck needs to drop" by January 19 for the NHL to play a 48-game schedule this season.

NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr declined to discuss details of the union's counteroffer, saying it covered a range of subjects included in the NHL proposal.

"The purpose of (Monday's) discussions was for us to respond (to the NHL proposal) and for them to ask a couple of questions and for us to explain a number of the points we made," Fehr said.

The bargaining session was the first since December 13.

NHL officials want a 10-year agreement and their latest proposal was reported to include extending the limit of player contracts to six years from their previous offer of five.

They were also prepared to adjust yearly salary variance to 10 per cent from five per cent and permit one buyout for each team before the 2013-14 season that would not count against the team's salary cap.

Players have been locked out since mid-September and the league has canceled games through January 14, more than 50 percent of the regular season which was scheduled to start in October.

At stake is how to divide $3.3 billion in annual revenue the league generates.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina, Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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