by Nick Granados
Assistant Sports Editor
The National Hockey League (NHL) announced more cancellations as the ongoing lockout enters its third month. The lockout has already claimed all games through the month of November, as well as the annual Winter Classic, which was scheduled to take place on January 1, 2013.
With seemingly no end to the lockout in sight, the cancellations kept coming. On November 23, the NHL announced the cancellation of all games through December 14, as well as the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend scheduled for January 26 and 27 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly expressed his disappointment following the announcement.
“The reality of losing more regular-season games as well as the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend in Columbus is extremely disappointing,” Daly said. “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 two sides have been meeting on and off for the past few weeks. However they still remain “significantly apart” according to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
While no meetings are scheduled, Bettman did go on to say that the League was informed by the Players’ Union that they would be in touch Friday.
“I think it’s frustrating for everybody and disappointing for everybody that it’s taken this long and that we’re still far apart,” Commissioner Bettman said. “But we’re going to stay at it.”
There has been ongoing frustration among players, as well as fans, with the way the labor discussions have gone.
“We want to be playing and it’s unfortunate we’re not,” said Flyers forward Scott Hartnell, who captained Team Pennsylvania/New Jersey in a charity game against Team New York (captained by New York Rangers forward, Brad Richards) benefiting those affected by Superstorm Sandy.
There was also a very loud “we want hockey” from the nearly 11,000 hockey-hungry fans who sold out Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
While Commissioner Gary Bettman said he appreciated the Union presenting a “comprehensive economic proposal that included movement in the direction of the owners on some of the economic issues that separate the two sides,” he also expressed surprise that the offer the NHL made on Oct. 16—one that, if agreed upon, would have saved an 82-game season—did not produce a deal.
“We made a proposal to save an 82-game season and, frankly, we’re all mystified we’re not playing in light of that offer and in light of the fact that the players are losing, as a group, between $8 [million] and $10 million a day,” Bettman said. “We could have been playing. We could have been continuing the momentum this game had on an offer and an agreement that was long-term and fair.”
Bettman also said the League’s most recent offer is still on the table, despite some owners suggesting it should be pulled.
That offer called for a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue (HRR) during the life of the agreement. Also in the proposal was an owner-funded “make-whole” provision, a mechanism designed to compensate players for the reduced value of their contracts in the first two years of a new CBA by reason of the negotiated reduction in players’ share from the 57 percent of HRR they earned in the final years of the previous CBA to 50 percent.
“To expect our best economic proposal to get better as the damage continues to increase isn’t particularly realistic,” Bettman said. “From an economic standpoint, we have given what we have to give. It was our best offer, and again, put it in the context that the business is probably losing between $18 [million] and $20 million a day and the players are losing between $8 [million] and $10 million a day.
“I don’t think it’s realistic for anyone to expect the economic deal to get any better, particularly when the economic deal we put on the table is a 50-50 deal — and on top of that, we agreed to pay over $200 million outside the system that we don’t think there was any obligation to pay, but we knew it was an important element for the players and it was something that we hoped would spring these negotiations toward a conclusion.”
As these discussions continue, time is ticking away on what is left of the 2012-2013 NHL season. Unfortunately, things are not exactly looking up.
While Gary Bettman said that more cancellations become “inevitable as time goes on,” he added that he is not at all focused on a date on which the 2012-2013 season would be canceled.
Meanwhile, time is ticking away.
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