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NHL owners rebuff players’ offer to meet

Players’ association special counsel Steve Fehr was not pleased that owners had a window to talk with the players.

bruce bennett/getty images

Players’ association special counsel Steve Fehr was not pleased that owners had a window to talk with the players.

NEW YORK — The little hope that existed for a full NHL season appears to be gone.

Shortly after the players reached out to the league on Tuesday night to restart stalled labor negotiations, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly rebuffed the union’s attempt.

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last week, in presenting the league’s most recent offer to the players, that if a new collective bargaining agreement wasn’t reached by Thursday, it would be impossible for a full regular-season schedule to be played.

No talks have been scheduled, and no last-minute discussions seem to be on tap.

‘‘I don’t anticipate any taking place for the balance of the week,’’ Daly said in an e-mail Tuesday night. ‘‘The Union has rejected the proposal we made last Tuesday and is not offering another one. We see nothing to be gained at this point by meeting just to meet.’’

Following a call for the union’s executive board Tuesday night, the players’ association informed the NHL it is willing to meet Wednesday ‘‘or any other date, without preconditions, to try to reach an agreement.’’

‘‘We hope to hear from them soon,’’ NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said.

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The NHL’s response wasn’t what the union had hoped to hear.

The sides haven’t met since the NHL turned down three counterproposals from the union Thursday, two days after the NHL’s offer that included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue.

The developments Tuesday night came hours after more discourse between the sides on the 38th day of the league’s lockout.

While negotiators for the NHL and union kept conversations to a minimum, club officials had a brief window last week to discuss the league’s latest proposal.

Those secretive discussions haven’t produced any breakthrough, but they have inflamed an already unsettled atmosphere. The union hierarchy wasn’t informed about the window then, and isn’t happy about it.

‘‘Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings,’’ players’ association special counsel Steve Fehr said. ‘‘No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot.’’

The NHL said Tuesday that team officials were able to have temporary contact with players, although there were parameters regarding what could be discussed.

‘‘From our perspective, this is a nonissue and a nonstory,’’ Daly said Tuesday in an e-mail. “There is nothing — legally or otherwise — that precludes club personnel from communicating with their players.’’

But, more important, is the fact that NHL officials aren’t having productive talks with union leaders. It seems that a full season, starting on Nov. 2, won’t take place.

The league has called off all games through Nov. 1. Without a deal this week, those games are in danger of being called off for good.

Last week, the NHL’s most recent contract offer was presented to the union and then publicly released in full. The union returned to the bargaining table last Thursday with its various counterproposals, that would also get to an even split of hockey revenue, but each was quickly rejected by the league.

There is a major divide between the sides over how to deal with existing player contracts. The union wants to ensure that those are all paid in full without affecting future player contracts.

No negotiations have taken place since last week, but the sides held two conference calls over the weekend to address questions the union had regarding the NHL offer.

After the NHL released it on Wednesday, club officials were given until Friday to speak to players and answer questions they might have about the proposal.

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