NHL commissioner Gary Bettman insisted yesterday the players' union has been unresponsive and stubborn in talks about a new labor agreement.
On the eve of the league's entry draft at Raleigh, N.C., Bettman met with general managers of the 30 NHL teams to discuss proposed rule changes and the labor dispute that has the league and its players girding for a long lockout.
He reiterated the league's position that any future collective bargaining agreement with the players must tie salary to revenues, a position rejected repeatedly by the union.
"We think the losses have proven over time that we can't operate under the current system," he said.
A recent economic study prepared for the league concluded that players get 76 percent of all league revenues -- far more than the other major team sports.
Team owners believe a revenue-percentage formula would set a relatively low salary ceiling, probably in the mid-$30 million range per team. The union views the idea as an effective cap.
Owners met yesterday to discuss proposed changes to speed up the game and improve scoring -- including shrinking the size of goaltender's pads and barring netminders from playing the puck behind the goal -- but nothing was resolved.
"I'm not looking to pick any fights with the union right now over issues that aren't essential to getting a new collective bargaining agreement," said Bettman.
Gerard Gallant was appointed coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday, nearly six months after he took over on an interim basis. Gallant led Columbus to a 16-24-4-1 record, replacing Doug MacLean Jan. 1 . . . Coach Claude Julien received a long-term contract from the Montreal Canadiens.