NEW YORK -- The NHL labor dispute remained deadlocked Thursday with no new negotiations, but the rhetoric certainly got more pointed.
At a hotel in Manhattan, the NHL Board of Governors gave commissioner Gary Bettman a unanimous vote supporting his promise to call a lockout when the current collective bargaining agreement expires Saturday at 9 p.m. (PT).
"We've been rebuffed at every turn," Bettman said of negotiations with the NHL Players' Association. "If you look at the numbers, we've made very dramatic movement, and the response has been nothing."
Across town at another hotel, Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild, one of almost 300 players attending a union meeting, was asked about Bettman's negotiating style.
"He really loves his lockouts," Parise said. This will be the third Bettman has called since he became commissioner in 1993.
Dozens of players, including Sidney Crosby, Henrik Lundqvist and Zdeno Chara, stood behind Donald Fehr, the union's executive director, as he spoke.
"Less money, fewer rights," Fehr said, summing up the union's view of the league's contract offer. "Everyone understands why the owners would like that. Every employer would like that. I have a more difficult time understanding why anyone would expect the players to make an agreement on that basis."
The players, who get 57 percent of league revenues under the expiring agreement, were offered 43 percent in the owners' initial proposal, and
The union's two proposals have left the players' share at about 53 percent of revenues, but there are many other points of dispute.
"We believe we're paying out too much," Bettman said, explaining why the owners no longer want to allow the 57 percent the players accepted after the lockout that cost the 2004-05 season. That settlement also gave the owners the salary cap system they wanted.
Crosby said he was contemplating playing in Europe.
"We're hockey players," he said. "We want to play -- we love playing. If it gets to the point here where it's not looking like we're going to have that opportunity, then that's what we do, find a way."
Bettman and Fehr said they would negotiate past the lockout deadline.
But Fehr, asked if a prolonged impasse could lead the union to challenge the NHL's salary cap system itself, raised the rhetorical ante.
"If we get past that point, then the players are as free to reconsider their position as the owners," he said.
Bettman said, "That certainly wouldn't be a positive development in this negotiation."