NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, center, leaves the NHLPA offices with Assistant… (Chris Young / Associated…)
The NHL canceled another block of games Friday, a day after its negotiations with the players' association broke down amid acrimony and finger-pointing. However, the league kept its most recent contract offer on the table and preserved a chance for a full schedule to be played.
The league, which locked players out Sept. 15, extended its cancellations through Nov. 1 for a total of 135 games. It previously canceled games from the Oct. 11 openers through Oct. 24.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Times on Friday the league's offer to the NHLPA remains in effect but said no additional negotiations had been scheduled. That offer stipulated a written collective bargaining agreement must be in place by Oct. 25 for a full season to begin Nov. 2. Missed games would be inserted into the calendar and the schedule would be extended about two weeks.
People familiar with the talks but not authorized to speak about them said negotiations might resume this weekend in New York.
Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, said players were disappointed by the latest cancellation.
"The players made another major move in the negotiations this week in an effort to end the lockout, by presenting the owners with a proposal that gets to a 50/50 split of revenues," he said Friday via email. "In return, we expect that owners will honour the current contracts they have already signed, which everyone knows is fair."
Talks broke off Thursday after the NHLPA rejected the league's offer and presented two full counter-proposals and a third, less-detailed option. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called the union's response "in many ways a step backward."
Players remain concerned over the league's plan for taking them from last season's 57% share of hockey-related revenues to 50% in the first year of the proposed six-year deal. Players would pay a large amount of their salaries into an escrow fund; the league says it would later refund money through a "make whole" clause, but players contend that would adversely affect their salaries in the final years of the deal.
Players also object to the NHL's proposals to delay unrestricted free agency and other system changes.
"I hope that there will be contact this weekend, so we can be back to bargaining ASAP," said Kings forward Kevin Westgarth, who participated in Thursday's talks in Toronto. "If Gary wants to treat this like the sky is falling, I'm very disappointed. He vastly overstated the difference between the sides, but I suppose he gets his good PR. Personally I would love to be beyond those worries, and just get a deal done."
If there isn't an agreement by Thursday, the NHL is expected to cancel a larger segment of games and eliminate the possibility of a full season.
Separately, the league and union agreed on final accounting of last season's hockey-related revenues. Each player will soon get a refund of 7.98% of last season's contracted pay, short of the 8.5% withheld before the season.