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NHL cancels all September preseason games because of lockout

OVI  ANGRY: The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, center, celebrating a winning goal in overtime against the Lightning in last season’s playoffs, says he may not return to the NHL from Russia after the lockout if his salary is cut.

Associated Press

OVI ANGRY: The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, center, celebrating a winning goal in overtime against the Lightning in last season’s playoffs, says he may not return to the NHL from Russia after the lockout if his salary is cut.

NEW YORK — The NHL on Wednesday canceled its September preseason game schedule, the first on-ice casualty of the lockout.

The league wiped out all games through Sept. 30 "because of the absence of a collective bargaining agreement" with the players association, it said in a statement.

The league has "no set policy on cancellations" of other games, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

The regular season is scheduled to begin on Oct. 11. The Lightning opens Oct. 13.

The Lightning loses four preseason games, one of them at the Tampa Bay Times Forum scheduled for Sept. 26 against the Blues. Another game was scheduled for Orlando on Oct. 27 against the Hurricanes.

Lightning season ticket holders will be notified of refund options, the team said. People who bought single-game tickets to canceled games should contact the point of purchase for refund information.

Also on Day 4 of the lockout, the league told its employees it will switch to a four-day work week Oct. 1, according to media reports. The employees also will take 20 percent pay cuts, ESPN reported.

Daly said on Canadian radio he and commissioner Gary Bettman, who makes around $8 million a year, would forgo their salaries during the lockout.

The Panthers and Senators have let staff go. Several other teams, including the Lightning, have said they don't have layoff plans as of now.

It was thought the sides would have a formal negotiating session Wednesday, but none was held. No formal sessions were scheduled.

Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr have been in constant communication since the lockout began Sunday, and they had planned to speak informally Wednesday.

Ovechkin threatens exit: On the day he signed a contract to play for his former Russian KHL team, Dynamo Moscow, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin reiterated that if a new collective bargaining agreement includes dramatic rollbacks in existing salaries, he might not return to the league once the lockout ends. "If our contracts get slashed … I won't rule out staying in the KHL, even past this season," Ovechkin said, as translated by the Russian sports news­paper Sport-Express.

Other players also might not return, he said. "Why they have to cut our salary and our contracts right now? They sign us. (Now they) want to cut it. I think it's a stupid idea and stupid decision by NHL, Bettman and the guys who work there."

If Ovechkin or any other player who signed with a KHL team were to stay in Russia once the NHL season started, he would be in violation of his deal with his NHL team, and the breach of contract would be in conflict with the league's agreement with the KHL to honor each other's player contracts.

An estimated 45-plus players have signed with European teams since the lockout began.

Fighting rules: The NHL said it will be "watching closely" rules to curb fighting that the junior Ontario league instituted Wednesday. The rules allow players 10 fights before supplementary discipline kicks in. For each fight from 11 to 15, a player will be suspended two games. For each fight after 16, a player gets a two-game suspension and his club gets fined $1,000. Fights instigated by an opponent don't count against a player's total. A player who totals 10 fights and then instigates one or more gets a four-game suspension plus other penalties for each instigation. The Ontario league talks to the NHL when it makes rule changes, Colin Campbell, NHL senior vice president and director of hockey operations, told ESPN. The NHL had debated internally instituting fighting rules, he said.

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.

NHL cancels all September preseason games because of lockout 09/19/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:48pm]
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