One week into the NHL lockout, league officials have all but conceded there won't be a new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association in place anytime soon.
Yesterday, the Washington Capitals joined several teams in announcing the cancellation of the preseason and some regular season games. The clubs acted in accordance with league policy, which permits them to release building dates up to 30 days in the future during the lockout.
For Capitals fans, that means the team's three preseason games at MCI Center -- the first home exhibition was to be played tomorrow -- have been canceled, as are the club's first two home regular season games.
If a new agreement is not reached by December, the entire season could be in jeopardy. There is little reason for optimism, given that the owners and players have not met in nearly two weeks, and there are no new bargaining sessions planned.
Meantime, the Capitals and other teams will continue trimming contests from the 82-game schedule.
"Games will continue to be canceled on a similar basis until the league's labor dispute with the NHLPA has been resolved, at which time the league will address the potential rescheduling of games," Capitals President Dick Patrick said in a statement.
The 30-day notice on cancellations has put MCI Center in a bind, according to Matt Williams, spokesman for Washington Sports & Entertainment, because most concerts and family shows are booked two to three months in advance.
"We obviously hope that the Caps and the NHL resolve this soon," Williams said. "But until we get more lead time on cancellations, it's tough to book anything [to replace the lost games]. . . . We are going to lose money from ticket sales, concessions, suites and club seats. The surrounding businesses will also suffer."
Capitals season ticket holders can request a refund in full on their accounts. Those who have renewed or purchased new seats will receive a 3 percent annual interest rate on their accounts until the season begins, along with other incentives, such as locking in seat location and price for this season and next.
The Capitals' home preseason schedule had included games against Philadelphia tomorrow, Pittsburgh on Oct. 6 and Carolina on Oct. 9.
The two canceled regular season games were against Atlanta on Oct. 19 and Montreal on Oct. 21. Tomorrow, the Capitals are expected to cancel their home game against the New York Islanders on Oct. 23, and so forth, according to a team spokesman. Now that games are being called off, presumably the entire schedule will need to be reworked if the season begins.
The previous collective bargaining agreement expired on Sept. 15. At the core of the dispute is the issue of controlling players' salaries. The owners are adamant about imposing a mechanism that directly links players' salaries to league revenue. The owners, who claim losses of $224 million last season and $273 million the year before, have vowed not to reopen the doors until there is a new economic system in place. The players consider any discussion of a salary cap a "non-starter."