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Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Board to meet April 20, window for new CBA closing


TORONTO - The NHL apparently is making plans to proceed with a 2005-06 season, with or without its players.

According to a report on Rogers Sportsnet of Canada's website Wednesday, commissioner Gary Bettman sent a memo inviting all 30 teams to a board of governors meeting on April 20.

Citing undisclosed sources, Sportsnet reported it is the second memo issued by Bettman in the last several days, with the first indicating the window of negotiation for a new collective bargaining agreement is closing rapidly, possibly within the next two weeks.

The league and the Players Association, who met for 90 minutes on Friday, are expected to gather again Thursday. It will be just the second meeting since February 19, three days after Bettman officially announced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.

While one NHL executive claimed Thursday's sessions is nothing more than "a step towards impasse," the board of governors meeting is believed to be a forum for Bettman to outline a plan to use replacement players in 2005-06 should a new CBA not be reached in the near future.

On February 16, the NHL became the first major North American sports league to lose an entire season due to a labor dispute.