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Second day of marathon talks end without new deal

By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - After a second day of marathon talks National Hockey League (NHL) owners and players appeared no closer to a new labor deal on Wednesday and ending a lockout that is threatening to wipe out the entire season.

The two sides huddled for nearly five hours at an undisclosed location in snowy Manhattan before breaking off negotiations for the night around 9 pm ET and agreeing to resume bargaining on Thursday.

The secret meeting followed eight hours of talks on Tuesday, both sessions ending without either side offering comment.

"We do not intend to comment on the substance or subject matter of today's negotiations," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.

The NHL players association (NHLPA) was no more forthcoming.

"The NHLPA and the NHL met today to discuss many of the key issues. We look forward to resuming talks tomorrow," said NHLPA chief Donald Fehr in an equally brief statement.

Having already canceled hundreds of regular season games along with its showcase event the New Year's day Winter Classic, owners and players representatives are coming under increasing pressure to work out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) or risk losing an entire season for the second time in seven years.

With the lockout now in its 53rd day fans are growing increasingly agitated as are some of the league's sponsors.

Canadians may be depressed about the ongoing lockout that has darkened arenas across the hockey mad nation but they are not crying in their beer - at least not Molsons.

Media reports indicate that Molson Coors, a major NHL sponsor, might seek compensation from the league for lost revenue caused by the labor dispute.

The items on the bargaining table were familiar ones, with how to divide $3.3 billion in hockey related revenue at the top of the agenda.

In its last offer the NHL presented a six-year proposal that called for an equal split of hockey-related revenue. Under the old agreement, players had received 57 percent of revenue.

The union offered three counter-proposals on October 18 that the league quickly shot down, saying later all failed to approach a 50-50 revenue split.

In an attempt to kick start negotiations, the league indicated it is willing to re-examine what has become known as the "make whole provision" that would honor all existing contracts even if the 50-50 split would come into immediate affect with the signing of a new CBA.

It is believed that a large part of Wednesday's meetings was devoted on how to implement the "make whole provision" but it was far from the only item up for negotiation.

Revenue sharing, contract term limits and free agency are all issues on the bargaining table that must be addressed before a new deal can be struck.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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