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League, players union back at the bargaining table

(Reuters) - The National Hockey League (NHL) and players' union returned to the bargaining table for the first time in more than two weeks on Saturday in a bid to salvage a portion of the league's regular season.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHL Players' Association special counsel Steve Fehr met in an undisclosed location to see if they could find common ground in a bitter labor dispute that has cost the league 326 games and its popular New Year's Day Winter Classic.

A league spokesman said he did not expect any comments by NHL officials after the session.

Earlier, Daly said in an email to the league's website, "Just trying to move the process forward. Maybe generate some more candid discussion on the issues that are separating us."

The two sides had not met since October 18 although there had been telephone conversations.

Players were locked out by the owners on September 15 after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement centering on how to split $3.3 billion in annual revenue.

The regular season originally was set to begin on October 11, but a week ago the league cancelled all games until November 30.

The lockout marked the fifth time in 20 years the NHL has been stopped because of a labor dispute. The last was in 2004-05, when the entire season was wiped out.

The Winter Classic, featuring Original Six rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, was to have been played at the University of Michigan's football stadium in Ann Arbor, attracting a potential NHL record crowd of over 110,000 fans to the venue known as the Big House.

It was scrapped on Friday along with a "Hockeytown Winter Festival" scheduled for Detroit.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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