NHL likely to cancel more games

calexander@newsobserver.comDecember 20, 2012 

The NHL may soon be canceling more games and could decide by the middle of January about canceling the season, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday.

Daly, appearing on SN 590 The Fan radio in Toronto, said there still were "many open issues" separating the league and the NHL Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement. He said no CBA negotiating meetings had been scheduled.

Asked if the NHL was prepared to let disagreement over such things as contract lengths and a CBA length shut down a $3.3 billion industry, Daly replied, "What we’re prepared to do is shut down the industry over doing a deal that’s not right for our owners."

Pressed on when a decision on a season cancellation could come, Daly said no date had been circled but said it likely would be "some time in mid-January." He noted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said at least a 48-game schedule needed to be played to maintain the "integrity" of the season.

When the 2004-2005 season was canceled because of haggling over a CBA, Bettman made the announcement in February 2005

The NHL, which locked out the players Sept. 16 after the expiration of the CBA, has canceled all regular-season games through Dec. 30, and Daly indicated the league could add another block of games before Christmas.

The NHLPA is in the process of taking a vote of its membership on authorizing the union’s executive board to file a "disclaimer of interest." A two-thirds majority of the vote, which ends Thursday, is needed to approve the authorization.

The board would have until Jan. 2 to file the disclaimer, which would effectively dissolve the union and allow players to seek antitrust litigation against the league.

Daly said he expected the union board to receive overwhelming support in the vote, but noted that approval did not necessarily mean a disclaimer would be filed. The NHL made two filings Friday – a class-action complaint in New York federal court asking that the lockout be declared legal, and an unfair-labor practice charge that was filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr also appeared Wednesday on SN 590 The Fan, saying the union was ready to meet and negotiate and blaming inaction on the league.

"If they’re perfectly happy not to have hockey, there’s not a lot we can do," Fehr said.

The league is seeking a 10-year CBA with an opt-out after eight years, and a maximum contract length of five years (seven years for re-signing a player). The union has proposed an eight-year CBA with opt-out after six years, and eight-year lengths on contracts.

Fehr took issue with Daly’s recent claim that Fehr was pointing toward a "deadline showdown" with the league over the CBA.

"I have no idea what he means by that ..." Fehr said on the radio show. "It’s only the NHL that has been setting deadlines."

Daly, in an interview Wednesday night with Hockey Night in Canada Radio, was asked if there would be a season. It was posed as a yes-or-no question.

"Yes," he said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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