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Big gap remains, says NHL

NEW YORK — The NHL put the course of ongoing labor negotiations back in the hands of the players’ association, and left union head Donald Fehr with ‘‘some things to consider’’ Friday night.

A bigger problem might be a wider gap between the sides than the players thought.

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After three seemingly positive days of talks, things went a bit sour Friday night when negotiations ended for the day. The union was under the impression the numbers suggested they were closer to an agreement. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman disagreed.

We looked at some of the numbers on the various proposals and we thought we were much closer together on the structure of a deal than the suggestions were,’’ Fehr said. “They came back to us and said, ‘No, we are very, very far apart on the structure of the deal.’ ’’

There were vocal disagreements at the end of the session. The union is beginning to feel that the NHL isn’t ready to make a deal now, even if the players were suddenly willing to accept the league’s offer in full — which they are not.

“We talked back and forth a little bit, and at one point the question was asked: ‘If the players would agree to everything that’s in your financial proposal, what you’re saying is you still won’t make an agreement unless the players give up everything in all of the player-contracting rights in your proposal? The answer was, ‘Yes, because that’s what we want,’ ’’ Fehr said.

Fehr said he expects the sides will get back together Saturday.

The union also fought to put out internal fires Friday after a memo to players summarizing Thursday’s negotiations was leaked to the media. That led to suggestions the players’ association didn’t fully convey the owners’ most recent proposal to its membership accurately or completely.

Fehr sternly shot down the report as false..

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