NEW YORK, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday players will be locked out if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by Sept. 15.
That's the day the current contract expires and the commissioner warned the players' negotiators the clock is running, ESPN.com reported.
"I reconfirmed something that the union has been told multiple times over the last nine to 12 months, namely that the time is getting short and the owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season, so we need to get to making a deal and doing it soon," Bettman said in New York. "And we believe there's ample time for the parties to get together and make a deal, and that's what we're going to be working toward."
A deal has eluded the two sides despite six weeks of talks. Money's at the core, with the owners seeking salary concessions from the players.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr noted "there's no requirement" that a lockout or strike take place just because a contract expires.
"There's no requirement that they do so and if nobody does anything, you can continue to work under the old conditions," he said.
But Bettman took a harder line in talking to reporters.
"Our efforts are going to be devoted to making a deal, but as I said the owners are not going to operate under the economics of this collective bargaining agreement," Bettman said.