NHL commissioner: Full schedule unlikely

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 25, 2012 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday it appeared unlikely a full 82-game season can still be played.

Bettman has set Thursday as a deadline for approving a new collective bargaining agreement for the league. He said that would allow enough time to conduct training camps, start the 2012-2013 season on Nov. 2 and get in a full schedule, plus the Stanley Cup playoffs, by the end of June.

But no meetings have been held this week between the NHL and NHL Players Association, and Bettman and the league seemingly are unwilling to consider or work off any of the union’s recent CBA proposals.

"Unfortunately, it looks like an 82-game season is not going to be a reality," Bettman told reporters Wednesday.

Bettman was appearing at a press conference to announce the New York Islanders’ relocation to Brooklyn in the 2015-2016 season.

The league proposed last week that the players get a 50-50 split of annual hockey-related revenue in a new CBA and that existing contracts would be "made whole" through deferred compensation. The players, locked out since Sept. 15, received 57 percent – about $1.88 billion – last season under the previous CBA.

The NHLPA on Tuesday night requested a meeting Wednesday with the league, but it was denied. Bettman said the union has chosen "not to engage" on the NHL proposal and there was nothing to discuss.

The union made three proposals last week, and all provided for a 50-50 split during the course of a five-year CBA. The league quickly rejected them.

"We made our best offer to save an 82-game season and it was not something the players’ association demonstrated any interest in," Bettman said Wednesday.

The NHL has canceled all regular-season games through Nov. 1, and Bettman was asked Wednesday about a decision on the Winter Classic, the Jan. 1 outdoor game that has produced impressive TV ratings and been a big money-maker for the league. This year’s game is set for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

"At some point in November we will have to commit many millions of dollars to get ready for the Winter Classic," Bettman said. "If there’s still uncertainty, we’re going to have to make a decision (on the game.)"

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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