The National Hockey League announced on Thursday that the regular-season schedule through Oct. 24 has been canceled.
No, the games haven't been lost. Yet, at least.
The 82 games scheduled between opening night, Oct. 11, through Oct. 24 have been canceled, but if a new CBA deal between the NHL and the NHLPA can be settled during the next three weeks, there's still a chance an 82-game schedule could be salvaged — as closely scheduled as the games would then become.
What the Oct. 24 date does, in effect, is create another deadline for the two sides to work towards. Should that threshold be reached … well, then we're likely going to see the regular-season slashed down and the Winter Classic and All-Star game at serious risk.
Back in 2004, the NHL and its teams canceled opening-night games as part of their initial preseason cancellations. This time, they were canceled with the rest of the games for two weeks.
Among the notable games that are part of the canceled schedule: The New York Rangers at the Los Angeles Kings for their banner raising (Oct. 12); and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Philadelphia Flyers, their first battle since the playoffs (Oct. 18).
What does this mean? As Michael Russo notes, "most team refund policies I've seen don't kick in yet" for fans, because the games may still be rescheduled.
Meanwhile, more and more players will leave for Europe, as NHLPA leadership has likely instructed them — either as a negotiation tactic to pressure the owners, or because Donald Fehr has told them that this lockout will be a marathon.
Meanwhile, the NHL waits for a counteroffer from the NHLPA, while the NHLPA feels it's made more concessions than the NHL has. And 'round and 'round we go...
UPDATE: The NHLPA has responded with a statement from executive director Donald Fehr:
"The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners. If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue. A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions. Nevertheless, the players remain committed to playing hockey while the parties work to reach a deal that is fair for both sides. We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner."
Here's a statement from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly:
Said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an email to the Star Tribune: "It was an extremely disappointing but necessary decision. There is simply not enough days left to open the regular season on time. We remain committed to continuing to work hard to try to figure something out that will result in the breakthrough we need to get this agreement done and behind us. But obviously, we haven't been able to do that yet. And for better or worse, we need a negotiating partner to make that happen."
And the official statement Daly:
"We were extremely disappointed to have to make today's announcement. The game deserves better, the fans deserve better and the people who derive income from their connection to the NHL deserve better.
"We remain committed to doing everything in our power to forge an agreement that is fair to the players, fair to the teams and good for our fans.
"This is not about 'winning' or 'losing' a negotiation. This is about finding a solution that preserves the long-term health and stability of the League and the game.
"We are committed to getting this done."
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