- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman received a unanimous vote from owners Thursday in support of a league-imposed lockout should no deal be reached by midnight ET Saturday.
Bettman met with the board of governors here, and although he already had the authority to implement a work stoppage, his constituency stood behind the league's position of a lockout.
The NHL and NHL Players' Association traded proposals Wednesday but remain far apart on core economic concepts.
There are no further meetings scheduled in advance of Saturday, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. But Bettman said the league is always receptive to continued dialogue with the union and is awaiting a response to its latest proposal.
Should the league impose a lockout, it would be the third work stoppage during Bettman's tenure as commissioner. The league forfeited an entire season in 2004-05 during the last lockout.
"Nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do," Bettman said. "This is very hard, and I feel terrible about it."
The players, who gathered for meetings with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr this week, are not pleased with the situation, either.
"Of course they're frustrated," Fehr said. "Of course they'd like this done. Of course they'd like it to be over so they can get back on the ice. That's what they want to do. No athlete likes to lose games. If they are willing to, there must be some powerful reasons."
With two days remaining until the deadline passes and a wide gap to bridge, the likelihood of the season starting on time seems slim.
"Right now, it's not looking great," Crosby said.
Several issues are preventing the sides from reaching an agreement.
The league is not willing to dole out the same share of hockey-related revenue the players' currently receive.
"We believe 57 percent of HRR is too much," Bettman said.
The players are not open to any deal that requires them to take an immediate, absolute salary reduction.
The league's most recent offer, when fully implemented, would reduce the players' share from 57 to 47 percent. The union's latest offer features a limited growth in share, tied to revenue, over a five-year deal that would not require any immediate givebacks from the players.
The league offered to revert back to the current definition of hockey-related revenue but was not receptive to the union's plan. Bettman also said the current offer comes off the table once Saturday passes, although Thursday he disputed the notion that it was an "ultimatum."
According to Bettman, a lockout would impact the league's revenue and alter the dynamics of the business. He indicated that making a deal would become increasingly difficult and subsequent offers might be less appealing because of the hit to the league's revenue.
"Even a brief lockout will cost more in terms of lost salary wages than what we're proposing to do to make a deal that we think we need to make," Bettman said.
Bettman said the league hasn't reconsidered its stance on Saturday's deadline, but Fehr pointed out that a lockout is a "choice" not a necessity.
"If it comes to that, it's a choice, which was made or is being made as we speak. It's not a requirement, it's not something anybody has to do," Fehr said. "If that's the way it's going to be, then unfortunately, that's the way it's going to be."
13dScott Burnside and Craig Custance