NHL cancels games through Nov. 30 (with statements and Lightning player reaction)
The NHL on Friday canceled games through Nov. 30 and could deep-six the Winter Classic and All-Star Game next week, the latest signs the lockout is threatening the entire season.
Games had previously been canceled through Nov. 1. But with no talks scheduled and the owners and Players' Association blaming each other in the media for the breakdown (there has been no formal negotiations since Oct. 18), the league dropped the hammer
Tampa Bay will lose 12 games in the current cancellation, six at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, including a Nov. 24 game at home against the Red Wings. Twenty-three Lightning games have been lost overall.
Said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in a statement:
The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action. 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. 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 came the statement from Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr:
“The league officially informed us today that they have withdrawn their latest proposal and have cancelled another slate of regular season games. This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players. But it comes as no surprise.
"Last week the owners gave us what amounts to a "take-it-or-leave-it" proposal. We responded with the framework for three proposals on the players’ share, each of which moved significantly, towards their stated desire for a 50-50 split of HRR, with the only condition being that they honour contracts they have already signed. Honouring contracts signed between owners and players is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, after considering them for only 10 minutes they rejected all of our proposals.
"Since then, we have repeatedly advised the owners that the players are prepared to sit down and negotiate on any day, with no pre-conditions. The owners refused. They apparently are only interested in meeting if we first agree to everything in their last offer, except for perhaps a few minor tweaks and discussion of their “make whole” provision.
"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.”
The union on Tuesday was rebuffed in its attempt to re-open negotiations -- the union wanted no preconditions, but the league said there was nothing to talk about unless the union "engaged" the owners' last proposal or submitted something new.
"We're trying to talk to these guys and try to negotiate and they don't want to talk, so I guess it's not really a negotiation," Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "When you negotiate it takes two parts and they're not really involved."
Both sides have acknowledged the revenue split will be 50-50. The questions is how to get there. The owners want the split to be implemented immediately. The players, who had 57 percent of revenue last season, want it gradually phased it. Players also want all current contracts honored. By going to an immediate 50-50 split, players would take about a 12 percent cut, something they do not want after taking a 24 percent pay cut after the 2004-05 season.
"We're telling everybody we're going to 50 percent, let's share the responsibility to get there," Lightning wing Marty St. Louis said. "They (the owners) don't want that. Again, they want to hit us. It's 24 percent last time and now 12 percent, and doing that when the game has grown the most, it's tough to take."
"Nobody is crying poor here," St. Louis added. "It's hard for the fans to understand that. But it's about when there's a problem, we have to fix it all the time. They don't want to take responsibility, too."