Ice Hockey - UPDATE 1-NHL-League offers new proposal to end bitter labor dispute

* NHL, union expected to discuss offer on Sunday

Reuters

* Plan reportedly tied to January start for season (Adds details)

Dec 28 (Reuters) - The National Hockey League (NHL) has given the players' union a new comprehensive proposal in an attempt to end their bitter labor dispute in time for a limited season, league deputy commissioner Bill Daly said on Friday.

Daly said the proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement was delivered to the NHL Players' Association late on Thursday.

NHL and union officials were expected to discuss the proposal during a conference call on Saturday and then meet face-to-face on Sunday, the league's website said.

"We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time," Daly said in a statement.

"We are hopeful that once the union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible."

The new offer is reportedly contingent on a regular season of at least 48 games starting no later than Jan. 19, according to NHL.com.

The union had no comment.

Players have been locked out since mid-September and the league has cancelled games through Jan. 14, more than 50 percent of the regular season which was scheduled to start in October.

At stake is how to divide $3.3 billion in annual revenue.

The league's latest offer included changes in NHL proposals on term limits for players contracts, salary variance and buyouts, a player who requested anonymity told ESPN.com.

The offer would extend the limit of player contracts to six years from the NHL's previous offer of five, adjust yearly salary variance to 10 per cent from five per cent, and permit one buyout for each team before the 2013-14 season that would not count against the team's salary cap but would count against the players' share, the ESPN report said.

With the talks stalled, the players have given their union's executive board the authority to file a disclaimer of interest, which would essentially dissolve the union and allow individual players to file anti-trust lawsuits against the league. The board has until Jan. 2 to made a decision.

To counter that possible move, the NHL has asked U.S. courts to confirm the legality of the lockout and filed an unfair labor practice against the players' union.

The dispute is the third to rock a professional North American sports league following lockouts in the National Football League and National Basketball Association last year.

It is also the NHL's fourth work stoppage in 20 years and first since a lockout forced cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.

When a labor dispute led the NHL to run a 48-game campaign for the 1994-95 season, an agreement with players was reached by Jan. 11 and the season opened on Jan. 20. (Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina, Editing by Tom Pilcher/Greg Stutchbury)

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