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The National Hockey League is prepared to commit to keeping the six Canadian-based franchises in the country until at least the end of the 2003-2004 season in exchange for government tax relief, the National Post reported today.

The league's promise is the central offer in an eight-page position paper that was agreed upon Thursday by the six Canadian clubs.

Four of the teams claim to be in severe financial difficulty because of the soaring cost of doing business, the effects of a poor exchange rate with the U.S. dollar and high taxes.

The agreement, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, was to be released today by the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

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