NHL cancels start of regular season
Published Thursday, October 4, 2012 2:13PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 4, 2012 9:06PM EDT
The NHL has cancelled the first two weeks of the 2012-2013 season as the league and the players association struggle to reach a deal.
The regular season was scheduled to begin Oct. 11, but it has been pushed to Oct. 24, wiping out 82 games.
The lockout is now in its 19th day and the league and NHL Players’ Association do not have any negotiation sessions scheduled.
"The game deserves better, the fans deserve better and the people who derive income from their connection to the NHL deserve better," said deputy commissioner Bill Daly in a statement. "We remain committed to doing everything in our power to forge an agreement that is fair to the players, fair to the teams and good for our fans."
However the NHLPA said a lockout should not be used as a negotiation tactic.
"If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue," said NHLPA's executive director Donald Fehr. "A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions."
It’s been the NHL’s third lockout in 18 years. Since the lockout began in September, Daly said the league has already lost $100 million.
"That is not going to be recouped and that's going to cost both sides," he said after talks broke off Tuesday in New York. "That's unfortunate but it's a reality of where we are."
Both sides have been unable to decide on the best way to split the US$3.3 billion the NHL took in revenues last season. The league is looking for an immediate rollback on salaries while the players are pushing to have all current contracts honoured.
Under the previous seven-year agreement, players received 57 per cent of revenue the league brings in. However, owners reportedly hope to bump that down to about 47 per cent.
Fehr has said that the players are willing to take a smaller share of the revenue, as long as larger market clubs are willing to commit to helping smaller teams, with less of a fan base, to stay afloat.
Host of TSN’s That’s Hockey Gino Reda told CTV News Channel on Thursday that the NHLPA is “furious” over the cancelled games.
“There’s no reason to start cancelling the games now because in reality if we got a deal in the next 10 to 14 days, we could jam those days that have been cancelled in the current schedule and still get a full game scheduled,” said Reda.
He said if an agreement is not reached within the next two week, hockey fans can expect the next block of games to be cancelled as well.
“The NHL has already said just because we cancelled two weeks this time don’t count on that as an ongoing pattern,” said Reda. “The next time we may come out we may say we’re going to cancel everything out to Dec. 1.”
He said if a deal is not in place for the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, the entire season may be cancelled.
“Neither side has presented a proposal. They’re each waiting for the other side to back down,” said Reda. “One side or the other needs to step forward with another proposal showing significant movement, or we sit and wait.”
A total of 468 games were lost in 1994-95, when the shortened season started on Jan. 20.
The entire hockey season was wiped out during the last round of negotiations in 2004-05, which marked the first time the Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded since 1919.
Meanwhile, an estimated 15 per cent of the league’s 750 locked-out players are looking elsewhere for work.
More than 100 have already found jobs in Europe and that number is only expected to climb as the lockout continues.
However, both sides have said they’re eager to reach a deal and they have maintained regular dialogue throughout the negotiation process.
"It's going to require sitting there and staying with it -- even if it's unpleasant, even if people aren't saying anything new right away, even if you'd rather be doing something else -- until you find a way to do it," said Fehr. "They haven't been willing to do that a lot lately. Hopefully, that'll change."
With files from The Canadian Press