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Sides agree on 'more aggressive meeting schedule'

NEW YORK -- The NHL and players' association returned to the
bargaining table Tuesday and met for six hours, hoping to build
momentum off talks that began two weeks earlier.

Negotiations centered around a new, hybrid concept -- which
addresses the relationship between player costs and league revenues
-- that was first discussed during the last round of talks in
Toronto on April 4.

The idea contains an upper and lower salary cap that would float
among the 30 teams depending on revenues.

"While we continued to discuss various issues relating to the
concept that was introduced at our April 4 meeting, no substantive
progress toward a new agreement was made," NHL chief legal officer
Bill Daly said in a statement. "The parties have agreed to arrange
a more aggressive meeting schedule over the next several weeks in
an attempt to move the process forward."

The league's Board of Governors will meet Wednesday to discuss using
replacement players for the 2005-06 season should no new CBA be reached in a reasonable time, SportsTicker reported.

The NHL has maintained that it prefers a link tying player costs
to league revenues, while the union has mostly rejected that idea.
Previous compromise discussions have failed to yield signs of
progress toward ending the lockout that began seven months ago.

Union senior director Ted Saskin said he was concerned that the
NHL is not serious about developing new ideas.

The meeting was attended by commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA
executive director Bob Goodenow.

"I expect Bob and Gary will be speaking again soon to discuss
any next steps," Saskin said.

Tuesday's meeting was the fifth bargaining session since
commissioner Gary Bettman canceled the season in February. The NHL
board of governors is set to convene Wednesday in New York.

If talks continue to fail, the NHL might seek to have a labor
impasse declared. If successful, the league could try to implement
its own system and open training camps in the fall with replacement
players. That was a major topic of discussion when the board of
governors met on March 1, and likely will be again when the
representatives from the 30 teams get back together Wednesday.

The NHL has already filed two charges against the players'
association with the National Labor Relations Board.

One challenged a union policy the NHL says would unfairly
penalize members who became replacement players -- forcing them to
pay back money they receive during the lockout. The league called
that policy coercive and in violation of player rights.

The other charge came in response to reports that the union was
threatening to decertify agents that represented replacement
players.

After investigating the league's claims, the NLRB will decide
whether to issue a complaint and whether to seek preliminary
injunctive relief.

Since the last meeting of the board on March 1, the live entry
draft, scheduled for Ottawa in June, became the latest casualty of
lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.