As labor talks drag, NHL cancels 82 regular season games through Oct. 24


NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, left, and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, shown in August following talks with the players’ union in Toronto. With labor negotiations stalled, the league has canceled the first 82 games of the season. (Chris Young/Associated Press)
October 4, 2012

With no progress in labor negotiations between the NHL’s owners and players’ union, the league on Thursday announced the cancellation of all regular season games through Oct. 24. The 2012-13 regular season was slated to open on Oct. 11.

In total, 82 games were canned, including seven Capitals contests — four at home and three on the road. The NHL’s announcement, however, left open the possibility of salvaging a full 82-game season.

If the two sides can come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement quickly, it is possible that games could be rescheduled. Reached via e-mail, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that it is “really tough to say” when there would need to be progress in the negotiations in order to play a full season.

“When we get to that point, we will have to reconfigure with the input and agreement of the Players’ Association,” Daly wrote in an e-mail. “There will be a lot of relevant considerations, I’m sure, including what can be done consistent with the health and safety of the Players.”

Through the first 19 days of this lockout, hockey’s third in the past 18 years, the two sides have met only four times. There has been no progress in trying to bridge a gap on the core economic issues, such as how to split revenues. Neither side has submitted a new proposal since Sept. 12.

Following the league’s cancellation of regular season contests, union boss Donald Fehr took aim at his opponents, calling the move a “unilateral choice of the NHL owners.”

“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,” Fehr said in a news release. “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. Nevertheless, the players remain committed to playing hockey while the parties work to reach a deal that is fair for both sides. We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner.”

While the stalemate drags on with no end in sight, the number of players finding work elsewhere continues to grow. More than 110 NHL players have signed in Europe, including Capitals Alex Ovechkin (KHL), Michal Neuvirth (Czech Extraliga) and Brooks Laich (Switzerland’s NLA). Forward Wojtek Wolski said in a text message that he plans on leaving to join KH Sanok of the Polish league next weekend.

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