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NHL lockout begins Thursday

The National Hockey League confirmed Wednesday that it would lockout its players on Thursday, an expected work stoppage that could effectively cancel the 2004-2005 hockey season. Team managements have demanded cost certainty, which players see as a veiled attempt at a salary cap, a move players have vowed to resist. The two sides had not met since last Thursday and had not been making much progress during the past year's talks.

According to League figures, teams in the NHL have been steadily losing money, $273 million in 2002-03 and $224 million last season, while players' salaries have been steadily rising. The lockout could be the first to wipe out the Stanley Cup championship since 1919, the result of a Spanish flu epidemic. Read the National Hockey League's press release announcing the lockout; the NHL website has extensive background information on negotiations under the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players. The NHL Players Association has issued this statement responding to the lockout announcement. AP has more.

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