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On Friday in New York; Blues lay off employees

TORONTO — The NHL and its players’ union are to resume bargaining Friday for the first time since the lockout began, although the talks will concentrate on secondary economic issues.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHL Players’ Association special counsel Steve Fehr met Tuesday in Toronto and set up the session, which will be in New York. These will be the first formal negotiations since Sept. 12, when the players and owners exchanged proposals.

The lockout started Sept. 16, when training camps were to open. This is the third lockout since Gary Bettman became commissioner in 1993. The last lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season and ended when players accepted a salary cap.

With the league and union far apart on money, both sides decided to discuss other economic issues that also are necessary for an agreement. Fehr said the topics will include pension and medical plans, schedule rules, drug testing and the grievance procedure.

Top officials from the NHL and NHLPA met Monday to review last season’s economics and complete escrow payments due players. The labor contract was not discussed.

“Obviously, we’ve got to talk before you can get a deal, so I think it’s important to get the talks going again,” Daly said Monday. “But you also have to have something to say. I think it’s fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players’ association in a meaningful way because I don’t think that they’ve really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now.”

The St. Louis Blues laid off what is believed to just less than 20 front-office workers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday. The remaining 75 employees took pay cuts or have switched to four-day work weeks.

Blues chief operating officer Bruce Affleck said some of the layoffs will be permanent — a decision made by the team’s new owners.

The Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators already have had layoffs. Other teams have said they could do so depending on how long the lockout lasts.

It took three months for the NHL and NHLPA to resume bargaining after the lockout began in 2004. Since this lockout started a handful of players have expressed concern it could last the entire season. Detroit Red Wings forward Danny Cleary said Monday he was “just trying to be realistic.”

The NHL has $3.3 billion in annual revenue. The league wants to reduce the players’ share of hockey related revenue from 57 percent to a range between 49 percent and 47 percent, up from 43 percent in its original proposal. Players think management’s alleged financial problems could be addressed by re-examining the teams’ revenue-sharing formula.

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