By Ira Podell
The Associated Press
NORMAN — More than a third of the NHL regular season and two of its marquee events have now been called off.
The league announced its latest round of cancellations on Friday — Day 69 of its labor lockout. All games through Dec. 14 were wiped out, and this time All-Star Weekend, scheduled for Jan. 26-27 in Columbus, Ohio, was lost, too. The New Year’s Day outdoor Winter Classic already was scratched.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said losing the All-Star festivities is “extremely disappointing.”
“We feel badly for NHL fans and particularly those in Columbus, and we intend to work closely with the Blue Jackets organization to return the NHL All-Star events to Columbus and their fans as quickly as possible,” Daly said in a statement Friday.
The Blue Jackets said fans holding tickets to the game, the skills competition, and other events during that weekend could receive refunds.
Brian Jack, a 35-year-old IT director who grew up in Pittsburgh, moved to Columbus 17 years ago and converted from a Penguins fan to a Blue Jackets supporter after the expansion team hit the ice.
“We knew the All-Star Game, the longer it went, was probably going to be one of the first special events they cancelled,” said Jack, a season-ticket holder for all of the Blue Jackets’ 12 seasons.
“You knew it was coming, but I hoped that they would get together and fix it (labor problems) up. For season-ticket holders who have watched the Blue Jackets struggle for a number of years with the product on the ice, the All-Star game was supposed to be a bright spot. Now that’s gone.”
A lockout in the 1994-95 season shortened that campaign to 48 games. A similar scenario could play out this time if the sides can find some common ground. Or the whole season could be lost, as it was in 2004-05.
The new cancellations come as little surprise. Owners and players had an unproductive negotiating session on Wednesday that produced no movement to break an impasse over splitting more than $3 billion in revenue and also player contracts.
“All players felt that this week would lead to something,” Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “However as of today unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s very disappointing.”
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