NEW YORK – The NHL wiped out the third week of the regular season Friday as the lockout dragged on, leaving no more wiggle room if the league hopes to play a full 82-game schedule.
A day after the NHL turned down three counterproposals from players, the league cancelled 53 more games. A total of 135 games through Nov. 1 have been scratched, which amounts to 11 per cent of the season.
“As expected,” New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron told The Associated Press in a text message. “We continue to work hard to find an agreement and get back to playing hockey.”
In its third lockout since 1994, the NHL is sticking to its most recent proposal that stated a full 82-game-per-team schedule could be played if the season begins by Nov. 2. The league says a deal must be reached with the union by next Thursday for that to happen.
Two weeks ago, the league called off 82 games from Oct. 11-24.
On Thursday, the union rejected the NHL’s proposal made two days earlier that offered a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues and ensured a full regular-season schedule. In brief talks, the players countered with their trio of offers that were, in turn, quickly dismissed by the league.
“We are disappointed that the NHL has cancelled more games as a result of the owners’ lockout,” said former player Mathieu Schneider, now the NHLPA special assistant to the executive director. “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.”
“In return, we expect that owners will honour the current contracts they have already signed, which everyone knows is fair.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he was “thoroughly disappointed” as he and the league delegation left union headquarters in Toronto. Bettman said that the owners’ proposal was the “best that we could do” and added that the sides are still far apart.
“None of the three variations of player share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50, either at all or for some long period of time,” Bettman said Thursday. “It’s clear we’re not speaking the same language.”
No new talks are scheduled.
If next Thursday’s deadline passes, more games will likely be cut, and the New Year’s Day Winter Classic will be the next big event in danger of being lost. The Detroit Red Wings are slated to host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the outdoor extravaganza at Michigan Stadium.
Union executive director Donald Fehr said two of the union’s proposals would have the players take a fixed amount of revenue, which would turn into an approximate 50-50 split over the term of the deal, provided league revenues continued to grow.
The third approach would be a 50-50 split, as long as the league honoured all existing contracts at full value.
None of it made any positive impression on the NHL.
“This is not a good day,” Fehr said Thursday. “It should have been.”