Czechs, NHL at impasse over transfer payments

PRAGUE, Aug. 10 -- Czech and NHL ice hockey
officials met for four hours on Wednesday but failed to break a deadlock over player transfer payments, an obstacle to National Hockey League participation in the Olympic Games.

Last week Czech professional teams rejected part of the NHL's recently signed collective bargaining agreement, saying they wanted higher fees for player transfers.

Under the new CBA, signed last month to end a 301-day player lockout by owners, the North American league would pay European teams for players based on a sliding scale.

The new scale for player compensation increases the amount paid for players to their European teams, up to $900,000 for a first overall draft choice.

That amount drops by $20,000 for each successive pick until the end of the first round. Teams that lose second-round picks and onward to the NHL would receive a flat $150,000.

Russian hockey clubs have also rejected the deal.

"We want an agreement that will be advantageous to both sides," said NHL executive vice president Bill Daly, who attended the talks along with Czech officials and Rene Fassel, the head of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and
Ted Saskin, the head of the NHL Players' Association.

The CBA, which lasts for five years, also sees the NHL
paying $12.5 million annually to the IIHF for development of the sport. This is up by some $3.5 million over the previous CBA.

Transfer money is also doled out via the IIHF.

If a compromise is not reached, the NHL would not have an agreement for its players to take part in the Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, next year, a tournament it has used to showcase its talent on a world stage.

The Czechs, who won Olympic gold in 1998 and are the
reigning world champions, had 71 players in the NHL during the
2003-2004 season, the NHL's last before the labor dispute.