By Ira Podell
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The NHL lockout has forced the cancellation of all games through the end of November.
The NHL announced Friday that 326 regular-season games from Oct. 11 through Nov. 30 were lost — more than 26.5 percent of the schedule. The news came a day after a league-imposed deadline passed for a deal with the players’ association that would allow for a full season.
“The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term collective bargaining agreement that would have preserved an 82-game regular season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.
“We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the players and the clubs — one that will be good for the game and our fans.”
The dispute is all too similar to the 2004-05 lockout that led to the cancellation of that entire season — the first time a North American professional sports league lost a complete campaign to a labor dispute.
Reaching a new deal potentially became even tougher Friday, because the NHL pulled off the table its most recent offer to the players — one that included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues.
“The league officially informed us today that they have withdrawn their latest proposal and have cancelled another slate of regular-season games,” union executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement. “This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players. But it comes as no surprise.”
If any of the canceled games can be rescheduled in the event of a quick settlement remains to be seen.
Daly told the AP in an email that if a deal is reached, the league will try to play as many games as possible.
“Having said that, once clubs begin releasing dates and rebooking their buildings, as they will be free to do for the month of November, the process will obviously get more difficult and complicated,” he wrote.
A quick decision on the status of the New Year’s Day outdoor Winter Classic and the All-Star game later in January isn’t expected, Daly said.
“They’re going to keep exercising the power that they have to be able to lock us out, and the thought that they can cancel games to try to sway us their way,” Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We’ll see what happens in the next little while and see where it goes from there.”
Last week, the NHL offered a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, which exceeded $3 billion last season, but that proposal was rejected by the union. The players responded with three counteroffers, all of which would get the sides to a 50-50 deal, but the league quickly turned them down.
The NHL proposal was contingent on the league playing a full 82-game season, beginning on Nov. 2, which now won’t happen.
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