NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a news conference last month. (Kathy Willens / Associated…)
As expected, the NHL on Friday canceled another block of games as well as the league's All-Star game, which had been scheduled for Jan. 27 in Columbus, Ohio.
Regular-season games were canceled through Dec. 14, bringing the number of games wiped out since Oct. 11 to 422, or 34.3% of the season.
Because there’s no All-Star game in an Olympic year — although the question of whether NHL players will participate in the 2014 Sochi Games hasn’t yet been resolved — Columbus will have to wait until 2015 at least to get the game.
“The reality of losing more regular-season games as well as the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend in Columbus is extremely disappointing,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.
“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.”
The latest round of cancellations included 29 Kings games and 28 Ducks games.
The NHL and the NHL Players’ Assn. have agreed to a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues but remain at odds over how the league would repay players for losing a huge chunk of their salaries to escrow as they make the transition from getting a 57% share of hockey-related revenues under the previous collective bargaining agreement.
The sides are also divided on issues such as free agency, salary arbitration and the league’s proposal to limit contracts to a maximum of five years.
Players are now considering decertification of their union to put pressure on owners to make a deal. That option was used by NBA and NFL players in their labor disputes last year and in each case it seemed to spur negotiations and bring about a resolution. Decertifying would allow players to pursue antitrust lawsuits against the league. The union would be reclassified as a trade association but could recertify in order to collectively bargain regarding certain working conditions.
It's a last-resort move because it is time-consuming and potentially costly to both sides, but the NHLPA might go that route in a bid to restart negotiations.
The two sides talked early this week and were expected to touch base by phone Friday.
An abbreviated schedule could still be played if a new labor agreement is reached, but the longer the dispute continues the shorter the season would be.
[Updated, 12:21 p.m., Nov. 23: Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players' Assn., responded to the cancellation with the following statement:
"On Wednesday, the players presented a comprehensive proposal, once again moving in the owners’ direction in order to get the game back on the ice. The gap that remains on the core economic issues is $182 million. On Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is losing $18-20 million per day during the lockout, therefore two more weeks of canceled games far exceeds the current economic gap. It makes the NHL’s announcement of further game cancellations, including the 2013 All-Star Weekend, all the more unnecessary, and disappointing for all hockey fans – especially those in Columbus. The players remain ready to negotiate but we require a willing negotiating partner.”]