An NHL lockout seems imminent after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman received a unanimous vote from owners on Thursday in support of imposing a lockout if no agreement is reached on a new collective bargaining agreement by midnight ET Saturday, ESPN.com reported.
Bettman had the authority to order a lockout without the owners' approval, but this vote indicated their support for the league's stance.
Meanwhile, union head Donald Fehr, backed by 283 players who attended Thursday's session, said at a news conference that the players would like to play while negotiations continue with owners.
That seems unlikely, however.
No additional meetings are scheduled before Saturday, although the sides can continue to negotiate in the meantime.
"Nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do," Bettman said, according to ESPN.com. "This is very hard and I feel terrible about it."
In a demonstration of solidarity, a large contingent of players attended Thursday's meeting, including stars such as Sidney Crosby, Henrik Lundqvist, Zdeno Chara, Claude Giroux, Zach Parise and Daniel Alfredsson.
"The players want to find a way to make an agreement," Fehr said. "They want to negotiate until we do."
Fehr added that he was surprised and disappointed with the owners' position and their apparent resignation to a shutdown. The NHL's current offer allows for increased revenue sharing with the players, but Fehr said the proposal calls for a 17 percent pay reduction.
"We'd like an agreement that stabilizes this industry, allows markets that need to grow to grow," Fehr said. "Hockey is poised, I think, to really move over next couple of years."
Crosby said, "A lockout is kind of what they're looking for."
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