All NHL games next month are canceled
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Could it be that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the lockout that has shut down the NHL since mid-September actually is making it tougher for casual fans to ignore the league?
After all, it can be tough to look away when you know there's a train wreck in progress.
And hockey is experiencing one that doesn't look as if it will end anytime soon.
The NHL announced Friday that it is canceling all games scheduled for November, raising the number of games called off because of the lockout to 326, or 26.5 percent of the regular-season schedule.
Scratching the November schedule reportedly will cost NHL teams about $720 million in hockey-related revenue.
The league's cancellation announcement made no mention of the Winter Classic, set for Jan. 1 in Ann Arbor, Mich., or the All-Star Game, which is supposed to be played Jan. 27 in Columbus, Ohio. One or both could be wiped out as early as next week if there is no positive movement in the talks.
Given that there have been no negotiations in the past week -- and none are planned -- it's tough to think that progress is imminent. Certainly, nothing either side said Friday suggested that there's reason to think that agreement on the major economic issues separating them is looming.
"The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a prepared statement. "By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA [last week] 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."
Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, countered in a statement that the latest cancellations and the league's decision to withdraw its most recent proposal once its deadline for playing a full 82-game season passed Thursday was "deeply disappointing," but "comes as no surprise."
He characterized the league's most recent offer as a "take-it-or-leave-it" proposal and pointed out that the NHL rejected three counter-proposals from the NHLPA within 10 minutes of receiving them.
Fehr said the owners subsequently have turned down repeated offers to meet and that "the message from the owners seems to be: If you don't give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking.
"They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate. We hope they return to the table in order to get the players back on the ice soon."
Daly's statement seemed to accept some, though certainly not all, culpability for the state of the talks.
"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 Penguins were scheduled to play 14 games in November, seven at Consol Energy Center. They had nine games, four at home, canceled in October.
Although more than a quarter of the season has been called off and a couple of the league's showcase events are in danger of being canceled, there's no immediate threat of the entire season being lost.
An unscientific sampling of Penguins players this week showed that most believe it is too early to fret about the chances of the 2012-13 season being wiped out as the 2004-05 season was by the league's previous lockout.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen, however, said he is "absolutely" concerned that such a thing could happen, at least in part because so much of the season already has been missed.
"Once we got close to the start of training camp, I think we all expected that we weren't going to be in camp," he said. "But we're [two] weeks into the season [as originally scheduled] now, and the more they cancel, the more it seems like a real possibility that we could not have hockey."
NOTE -- Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist in Metallurg Magnitogorsk's 7-2 victory against Spartak in a Kontinental Hockey League game Friday, giving him nine points in his past three games.
First Published October 27, 2012 12:00 am