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NHL cancels more games, leaving Lightning players disappointed

BRANDON — Poor Tom Pyatt.

The Lightning forward's first one-way contract — two years, $1.2 million — was set to kick in this season. He bought his first house in his native Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he said he will be next week to get the keys.

So, forgive Pyatt's gallows humor when he heard the NHL on Friday canceled games through Nov. 30.

"I guess," Pyatt, 25, said, smiling, as he walked out of the Ice Sports Forum after a skate, "I should look for a job."

Games previously were canceled from the season's scheduled start, Oct. 11, through Nov. 1. But the league and its locked out (and unpaid) players haven't met formally since Oct. 18 in their attempt to forge a collective bargaining agreement. The league also turned down a players association invitation on Tuesday to restart negotiations because it said there was nothing new to talk about.

With no meetings scheduled, the league dropped the hammer, increasing the number of canceled games to 326, 26.5 percent of the season. The Lightning, which lost 12 games Friday, has lost 23.

"The message from the owners seems to be: If you don't give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking," union executive director Don Fehr said in a statement. "They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate."

The trick is getting to a 50-50 split in league revenue. Owners want it immediately. Players, who last season received 57 percent of a record $3.3 billion in revenue, want it phased in. They also want current contracts honored.

That is a big deal. An immediate 50-50 split means a 12 percent pay cut for players, who took a 24 percent cut after the 2004-05 lockout.

"We're telling everybody we're going to 50 percent, let's share the responsibility to get there," wing Marty St. Louis said. "(The owners) don't want that. Again, they want to hit us, 24 percent last time and now 12 percent. Doing that when the game has grown most, it's tough to take.

"Nobody is crying poor here, and I think it's hard for the fans to understand that. It's about when there is a problem, (the players) have to fix it all the time. (The owners) don't want to take responsibility, too."

With a full 82-game schedule apparently off the table after the league's refusal Tuesday to restart negotiations, pressure points might be cancellation of the Jan. 1 Winter Classic and Jan. 27 All-Star Game.

"The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement about Friday's developments. "We remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the players and clubs."

For now, though, Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer said, "This is not good for the game. It's not good for the fans."

And not good for Tom Pyatt.

NOTES: Vlad Namestnikov, drafted 27th overall in 2011 and now with AHL Syracuse, has a shoulder injury that could keep him out four to six weeks, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. … Goalie Mathieu Garon is in Canada playing exhibition games organized in part by Flyers and former Tampa Bay defenseman Bruno Gervais.

NHL cancels more games, leaving Lightning players disappointed 10/26/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 26, 2012 10:26pm]
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