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NHL, union to return to bargaining, with mediators

TORONTO (AP) — NHL labor negotiations will resume Wednesday, with mediators rejoining the talks at an undisclosed location in an effort to save the hockey season.

The Canadian Press on Tuesday reported the restart of bargaining between the league and union, citing unidentified people on both sides of the dispute.

U.S. federal mediators Scot Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney are to return to the process. At the end of last month, mediators left the negotiations after two days.

Tuesday marked the 87th day of the lockout. Wednesday's session will be the first meeting since the sides blamed each other after talks broke off last week.

Until then, they appeared to be making progress during three days in New York in which they exchanged proposals. Union executive director Donald Fehr maintains there are agreements on almost all the important issues.

The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule Monday, canceling games through Dec. 30 in addition to the New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, which were already wiped out.

In all, more than 40 percent of the regular season that was scheduled to begin Oct. 11 has been scratched.

The latest cancellations were generally regarded as both bad news and good news.

While losing another two weeks hurts the league and the players, the fact that the NHL did not take more games off the schedule sparked speculation owners are holding out hope of making a deal that could start the season in early January.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league would not want to play anything less than a 48-game season, which is what it had after 1994-95 lockout ended.

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