The NHL announced, not unexpectedly, it has canceled regular season games through Oct. 24, the latest fallout from the player lockout that, with negotiations stalled on a new collective bargaining agreement, has no end in sight.
The regular season was supposed to begin Oct. 11. The Lightning's first game was to be Oct. 13 at Florida. The cancellation of 82 games wipes out Tampa Bay's first four: Oct. 13 at Florida, and Oct. 16, 19 and 23 against the Islanders, Panthers and Rangers, respectively, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
For now, the Lightning's first game is scheduled for Oct. 25 at Calgary. But that would likely need an agreement to happen quickly, and that does not seem likely after talks Tuesday broke off after two hours and no new negotiations are scheduled.
"Definitely," Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said about fans being upset with both sides. "It's a game that everyone wants to watch and the fans don't want to miss. They're saying, 'Just get it done. Get a deal done.' Right now there's not much improvement going on so it's understandable how people are feeling. But I can tell you as a player we want this thing done, too, but we want a deal that's fair for both sides and we want to do it the right way."
The problem is how to divide $3.3 billion in league revenues.
According to various reports, the NHL's proposal is a six-year deal with the players receiving from 47 to 49 percent of revenue. The players, who received 57 percent of revenue last season, propose a five-year deal in which they receive from 52.2 percent to 54.3.
Owners say they simply are paying players too much. Players, who accepted a 24 percent salary rollback after the 2004-05 lockout, say it is not their job to save the owners from the previous deal the owners demanded. Players also want any money they give back to be applied to strengthened revenue sharing. The league has balked.
"For a regular guy it's hard to understand," Lightning wing Marty St. Louis said of millionaires arguing over how to slice the pie. "But it's not so much about the money. It's about getting a fair deal. Last time we got hosed. We built the game back up with how hard the guys worked. We put a good product on the ice. Everybody got more excited every year. We built that. We're trying to work in their direction but we just don't see the same thing coming back our way."
There was no immediate comment from the league, but the Lightning released this statement:
"We are disappointed for our fans with today's announcement, but we are hopeful that with good faith negotiations an agreement can be reached and we will be enjoying Lightning hockey and the team's 20th anniversary season sometime soon."
Lightning season ticket holders can go to tampabaylightning.com/STM or call 813-301-6800 for refund options.