NHL Canceling Games Through January 14

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Following the NHL Board of Governors meeting, Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League addresses the media at the Westin Times Square on December 5, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

More bad news, NHL fans—the league has now canceled more games through January 14 on Thursday evening, leaving the possibility of a shortened season on life support.

From NHL.com:

The National Hockey League announced today the cancellation of the 2012-13 regular-season schedule through January 14. The cancellations are necessary due to the absence of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players' Association and the NHL.

At this point, I think you'll be hard-pressed to find an NHL fan that actually believes a season will occur. Even worse, I would imagine most casual fans of the sport have all but forgotten about it at this point, sticking to football and basketball instead.

It hasn't helped that the two sides haven't even been meeting this week, as Pierre LeBrun of ESPN wrote on Thursday afternoon:

Speaking to a large throng of media here before an NHLPA charity hockey game at the former Maple Leaf Gardens, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr was asked why bargaining has not resumed this week.

"Because the owners have not indicated a desire to resume," Fehr said. "We've indicated any number of times that we're willing to resume whenever they are without pre-conditions.''

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, reached by ESPN.com via email Wednesday evening, said the league is willing to resume talks under the right conditions.

"We haven't said we won't meet, but we certainly would want to know what the agenda is and how they intend to proceed,'' Daly said.

That's not a good sign, folks.

While talks have taken the two sides down to a few issues, those issues are pretty huge ones and the two sides seem philosophically opposed to bending too far on them. 

The owners want a five-year cap on free-agent contracts that could be bumped up to seven years when teams re-sign their own players. The players are concerned that will limit their value on the free-agent market, especially for non-star players.

And of course, hanging over the head of everything is the NHL's lawsuit against the NHLPA, a preemptive strike against the possibility of the union decertifying and basically sending the entire process to the courts.

Essentially, the NHL owners are attempting to argue the legality of their lockout to guard against an antitrust suit that would stem from the players decertifying as a union. 

What can fans take out of all this? That hopefully, the lawsuits, threat of lawsuits and the fact that the next canceled games will wipe out the season altogether will be enough motivation for the two sides to compromise.

No matter what side you take in this labor dispute, as hockey fans the ultimate goal is seeing games being played.


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