The NHL lockout has claimed 96 more regular-season games and the 2013 All-Star Game in Columbus.
The latest round of cancellations from the league was widely expected after collective bargaining talks earlier in the week failed to produce a new agreement.
All games through Dec. 14 have now been taken off the schedule. Nationwide Arena in Columbus had been scheduled to host the All-Star Game for the first time on Jan. 27.
“The reality of losing more regular-season games as well as the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend in Columbus is extremely disappointing,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement Friday. “We feel badly for NHL fans and particularly those in Columbus, and we intend to work closely with the Blue Jackets organization to return the NHL all-star events to Columbus and their fans as quickly as possible.”
The league has cancelled 422 regular-season games in total, plus the Winter Classic and All-Star Game, which amounts to over 34 per cent of the season.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association remain apart in negotiations on the allocation of revenue and rules governing player contracts, and currently have no bargaining sessions scheduled.
Already the first North American sports league to lose an entire season to a labour dispute, the NHL is looking to avoid missing its second in nine years. Progress has been hard to find during negotiations, with commissioner Gary Bettman saying Wednesday that the sides remained “far apart” after a new proposal by the NHLPA.
The offer from the union built off a framework previously put forward by the league and proposed a 50-50 split of revenues along with US$393 million in deferred payments to help ease the transition to a lower share for players. The NHL’s last offer was for a 50-50 split and $211 million.
There are also contracting issues to be addressed.
As a result, Bettman still sees a wide gap in negotiations and indicated that some owners have asked him to remove the league’s latest offer from the table.
“The union has had our best economic proposal and that was in the context of playing an 82-game season,” Bettman said Wednesday. “That proposal was summarily rejected and any expectation that the offer is going to get better as time goes on is not realistic.”
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr believes his constituents have shown a willingness to negotiate by narrowing the financial gap to $182 million over five years. Like Bettman, he indicated the best offer from his side had already been put forward.
“On Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is losing $18-20 million per day during the lockout, therefore two more weeks of cancelled games far exceeds the current economic gap,” Fehr said in a statement. “It makes the NHL’s announcement of further game cancellations, including the 2013 All-Star Weekend, all the more unnecessary, and disappointing for all hockey fans — especially those in Columbus.
“The players remain ready to negotiate but we require a willing negotiating partner.”