NHL cancels November games

Updated: October 26, 2012, 11:08 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

With hopes of preserving an 82-game season swiftly dashed after the passing of the NHL's self-imposed Thursday deadline, the league announced another chunk of cancellations Friday.

All games through November were axed, the third round of cancellations since the lockout began last month.

The league canceled games through Nov. 1 last week following a dispiriting proposal-swapping session between the NHL and NHL Players' Association in Toronto. With no progress made since, the league was forced to wipe out another significant block of the regular-season schedule.

Don Fehr, NHLPA executive director, said in a statement Friday that the news of the cancellations "comes as no surprise."

A lack of meaningful dialogue between the warring factions means that the league's marquee event, the Winter Classic, is in jeopardy as well.

The annual outdoor game may be canceled as early as next week, a source with knowledge of the league's plans told ESPNNewYork.com.

When asked if he had completely ruled out a full season in light of Friday's cancellations, Fehr left a shred of hope.

"I don't know. I would like to believe not but we have a contract to negotiate first," Fehr told a small group of reporters at the Champs for Charity hockey game in Rosemont, Ill. "All I can tell you is that when a deal is reached, we hope both sides make the maximum effort to put together the largest number of games that are physically possible to do, consistent with the logistics of that and player safety."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday via statement that the league accepts "that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining" and "deeply regrets having to take this action."

The total loss in hockey-related revenue for the season through Nov. 30 would be $720 million, Daly estimated, assuming the cancellation of all November games.

"By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA 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," he said.

Fehr said he hasn't been surprised by the developments of the last few weeks, saying it has followed a similar script to how lockouts have played out in other sports.

"Somebody has to be willing to talk about things seriously," Fehr said Friday night. "So far, the league's position is essentially, 'We've got billions of dollars from the players last time, we've had nothing but record revenues ever since, let's try and get another billion or two.' That's hard. That's really hard to do."

Commissioner Gary Bettman said a decision on the Winter Classic was needed "very soon" when reached Wednesday at a news conference announcing the Islanders' move to Brooklyn beginning in 2015.

"I'm not going to give you an exact timetable, but at some point in November," he said. "We will have to commit many millions of dollars to get ready for the Winter Classic, so if there's still uncertainty, we're going to have to make a decision, and my guess is, we're not going to commit those dollars unless we have certainty."

Next Friday is the last day the NHL can cancel the Winter Classic without having to reimburse the University of Michigan for expenses related to the event. The league only will forfeit $100,000 of the $3 million stadium rental fee.

Bettman also indicated Wednesday that the negotiation process -- one that has been stagnant without any formal meetings during the past week -- was likely to get "more difficult" moving forward.

The league followed through with that promise Friday, canceling games but also informing the NHLPA that its last offer is now off the table.

The offer -- which included a 50-50 revenue split and provision to "make whole" existing player contracts by using deferred payments -- was contingent on playing an 82-game season, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun on Thursday. With no chance of salvaging a full season, the offer has been rescinded.

The NHLPA has not made any additional offer since its trio of proposals was promptly rejected by the league last week. The union has attempted to stoke negotiations by offering to meet, but the league has spurned those invitations.

Fehr, via statement, said the owners rejected the proposals "after considering them for only 10 minutes.

"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."

Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance was used in this report.

Katie Strang covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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