At best, it appears the NHL will have a shortened 2012-13 season.
The league has imposed a Thursday deadline for having a new collective bargaining agreement in place that would allow it to play a full 82-game season, but with negotiations stalled, there is little hope for a timely resolution. Without a deal, deputy commissioner Bill Daly reiterated, the possibility of a full season will be eliminated.
“The opportunity to play an 82-game season will be lost permanently if we are not in a position to drop the puck on November 2,” Daly wrote in an e-mail to The Post Wednesday. “There is no wiggle room on this one.”
The NHL’s third lockout in 18 years is now 40 days old and has already caused 135 games to be wiped off the schedule. Without progress on a labor deal, the league is expected to announce another, larger round of cancellations by the end of the week. The annual Winter Classic, between Toronto and Detroit at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., is also in jeopardy.
“Unfortunately, it looks like 82-game schedule will not be a reality,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, while attending the announcement that the New York Islanders would relocate there in 2015.
Last week, the NHL tabled a proposal with a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues and a “make whole” provision to ensure the value of existing contracts through deferred payments from the players’ future share. In response, the NHL Players Association presented three offers on Oct. 18 that were rejected by league officials within 10 minutes.
The NHL and the players’ union have not met since, and there are no meetings scheduled before the Thursday deadline passes.
“Unfortunately, given where the Union stands on our proposal from last Tuesday, I fail to see a basis on which negotiations can productively continue in the short term,” Daly wrote. “It will require us to go back and give some thought as to how best to go from here. We thought a 50-50 deal with a mechanism to repay players for the reduced value of their contracts in the early years of the CBA would be of at least some interest to the players. Apparently, it wasn’t.”
Despite the grim outlook, many believe that the framework for an agreement exists between the two sides now that both have submitted proposals with the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues. How to reach that point, though, while meeting the NHLPA’s top demand of honoring existing player contracts, is still highly contentious.
There is also a growing distrust between the two sides. Since the last negotiating session, news leaked that the NHL granted team executives a 48-hour window to answer player questions about the latest proposal — without telling, or seeking approval from, the union. Under normal lockout procedures, all team employees are forbidden from speaking with players.
Whether the move was solely to provide information or a deliberate attempt to fracture the union, it may have served to galvanize players rather than rush them toward an agreement.
Then on Tuesday, the NHLPA said it would be willing to meet at any time as long as there were no preconditions in place. The NHL rejected the invitation because it is not interested in another session unless the union is willing to work off the league’s most recent proposal or present a new one.
“We said to them that we are prepared to meet if you want to discuss our offer, or if you want to make a new offer,” Bettman told reporters in Brooklyn. “They have no inclination on doing either and so there really was no point in meeting at this point. There are just some times where you need to take time off because it’s clear that you can’t do anything to move the process forward, and we’re at one of those points right now because we gave our very best offer.”