In midst of NHL lockout is eerie silence

calexander@newsobserver.comSeptember 17, 2012 

The first day of the NHL lockout passed quietly, with no apparent sense of urgency.

There were no collective bargaining meetings Sunday between the NHL and the NHL Players Association. Nor was there word of when any will be held.

With the expiration of the NHL collective bargaining agreement at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, and with no new CBA approved, the lockout of the NHL players began. On Sunday, teams began contacting season-ticket holders and making plans for a week in which NHL preseason training camps were scheduled to begin but now likely will be cancelled.

Neither NHL commissioner Gary Bettman nor NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr were to be seen Sunday. Instead, both the league and union issued their own “message to the fans” on their web sites.

The NHL issued a statement saying the league was committed to around-the-clock negotiations to reach an agreement on a CBA “that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams.”

The statement noted the last CBA brought about “seismic change” in the league’s financial system and that the league now needed “a fairer and more sustainable division of revenue.” The league said it sought to have “sensible, focused” negotiations and not more “rhetoric.”

The NHLPA’s response was more telegenic and likely got more views – it was posted on Youtube. It had players such as Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks speaking to the CBA issues.

“Like any partnership, you want both sides to benefit and I think that’s the case here,” Crosby said on the video. “As players, we want to play. But we also know what’s right and what’s fair.”

Some of Toews’ comments were more biting.

The NHL was a $3.3 billion business last season and has grown by more than $1 billion since the last NHL work stoppage, when the 2004-2005 season had to be cancelled. The CBA that finally was signed in 2005 set up a hard salary cap and rolled back player salaries by 24 percent.

“This system that is supposedly broken was designed by the NHL owners and league itself,” Toews said. “We did our part in ’04-’05 – the players who were there.”

As for the fans who buy tickets and attend games, many were receiving notices Sunday from teams about contingency plans.

The Carolina Hurricanes sent out an email to update season-ticket holders Sunday that noted the “possibility of the Hurricanes playing the full season still remains.” It said if any games were cancelled, season-ticket holders “will not pay for any games which go unplayed.”

It said Canes’ season-ticket holders will get 3 percent simple interest on money in their ticket accounts, accrued between Sunday and the end of the lockout, and that it can be used to buy other tickets this season and next season.

The NHL season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11.

Alexander: 919-812-7176

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