Time may be short for NHL to save full season

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 24, 2012 

The window may be fast closing on the NHL playing a full season.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has said Thursday is the deadline for approving a new collective bargaining agreement. Bettman said that would allow the season to begin Nov. 2, squeeze in an 82-game regular-season schedule and have the Stanley Cup playoffs end in June.

But as of Tuesday, no formal bargaining session had been planned between the NHL and NHL Players Association for this week. The biggest news came from media reports that the league allowed its owners and general managers to contact players and field questions during a 48-hour period late last week.

An internal NHL memo obtained by The Canadian Press revealed the GMs were told they could respond to player "inquiries" about the CBA proposal made last week by the league. The memo said GMs "could not suggest hypothetical proposals that the league might make in the future or that the league might entertain from the union."

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford is not believed to have spoken with any of the Canes players during that 48-hour window. NHL owners and general managers can be fined by the league if they speak publicly about the lockout or CBA negotiations.

The NHLPA was taken off-guard by the NHL directive and found issue with the league giving permission to the general manager to contact players. Union special counsel Steve Fehr said the league "secretly unleashed" the GMs, according to The Canadian Press.

The league proposed last week that the players receive 50 percent of annual hockey-related revenue (HRR), a reduction from 57 percent this season. The league also said it would "make whole" existing player contracts through deferred compensation.

The union responded with three proposals, all providing for a 50-50 HRR split during the course of the CBA. All were quickly rejected by the league, which then opened up the 48-hour window for the GMs

The players have been locked out since Sept. 15, when the previous CBA expired. The NHL regular season was to have started Oct. 11, but the league has canceled all games through Nov. 1 – a total of 135 regular-season games.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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