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TRADING CARDS KEY ISSUE IN NHL DISPUTE

Forget about free agency and playoff money. Hockey cards are the big issue in the NHL contract talks.

Hockey cards?"(Hockey) trading cards has a big impact on us," said Bruce Driver, player representative of the New Jersey Devils.

Such an impact, in fact, that the players are hesitant to give up their share in the revenues generated by card sales.

And who can blame them?

Players now receive 68 percent of hockey card revenues, estimated at approximately $16 million. It has become a major issue in the talks because the NHL Players Association says the owners want to take away that revenue from the players."They want most of it," said Detroit's Shawn Burr.

Or, all of it - if you listen to others, like Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHLPA.

"We have enjoyed well over 10 years (of revenues from trading cards)," Goodenow said. "Now they want us to give back those revenues. That would jeopardize the lifeblood of the Association."

The money gained from the trading card market helps to fund the NHLPA. Players receive about $50,000 apiece from the cards.

"It's the backbone of our union," said Tom Kurvers, player representative of the New York Islanders. "We can't let (the owners take away the trading card revenue) or our union is in trouble."

Ziegler, meanwhile, disputed that the owners wanted the hockey card revenue.

"The owners have proposed that the position of the players and owners concerning the right to trading card royalties stay exactly as it is with immediate negotiations to start for a new player-owner licensing partnership," he said in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

"Statements earlier today by the NHLPA - either intentional or otherwise - that the owners' proposal was to take away the players' trading card money were absolutely incorrect."