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The head of hockey's union today pushed its strike deadline back until Wednesday to allow a vote on management's latest offer, but recommended players reject the deal.

During a news conference than began about 40 minutes before the original deadline of noon EST, union head Bob Goodenow said the extension was made because "the overall feeling was to allow the players the opportunity to vote on the offer."Goodenow, who conducted a 90-minute conference call today with player representatives, said the move was made to emphasize the seriousness of the situation.

"We wanted the players to understand it wasn't just threatening the Stanley Cup playoffs, but might jeopardize the start of next season," Goodenow said.

Players want liberalized free agency, independent arbitrators, a shorter draft and better playoff money. Owners claim they can't afford what the players want.

Owners claim they will lose a total of about $9 million this season, but players say the clubs will earn a total of about $24 million.