NHL lockout: League cancels first two weeks of regular-season schedule

NHLLockoutOn Thursday, the NHL announced the first round of cancellations to the regular-season schedule, nixing the first two weeks of the season, starting with opening night of Oct. 11 and running through Oct. 24.

NEW YORK (October 4, 2012) – The National Hockey League announced today the cancellation of the 2012-13 regular-season schedule through October 24.  A total of 82 regular-season games were scheduled for Oct. 11 through Oct. 24.

The cancellation was necessary because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL.

This lockout just got real, folks.

Up to this point the NHL had twice nixed games off the schedule, but they were all preseason games (97 total). While those are certainly worth something -- NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said it cost the league $100 million in revenue -- people weren't crying too much over missing the exhibitions. Full-price tickets for meaningless games isn't a good deal.

Now, though, these are the games that are meaningful, the ones that count.

One question that remains is if these games will be made up. Just because the games have been cancelled doesn't mean the schedule can't still be 82 games. It would just require condensing it and possibly extending it. Then again, it would also require a CBA being agreed to soon, so you can probably kiss all of these games good bye.

At the moment, everybody feels the pain. First the statement from Daly and the NHL:

"We were extremely disappointed to have to make today's announcement.
The game deserves better, the fans deserve better and the people who derive
income from their connection to the NHL deserve better.

"We remain committed to doing everything in our power to forge an
agreement that is fair to the players, fair to the teams and good for our

"This is not about ‘winning’ or 'losing' a negotiation. This is about
finding a solution that preserves the long-term health and stability of the
League and the game.

"We are committed to getting this done."

That wasn't it for the statements. Donald Fehr made one on behalf of the NHLPA as well.

"The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners. If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue. A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions. Nevertheless, the players remain committed to playing hockey while the parties work to reach a deal that is fair for both sides. We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner."

Even Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, one of the calmest guys around in the sport, was expressing his growing frustration.

Of course, this is anything but a surprise (not that that doesn't make it stink any less). For a while, this was as easy to see as snow in Winnipeg in January. We knew it was coming, particularly after Daly revealed Tuesday's CBA meeting made "no progress." With opening night just a week away, this was inevitable. The question was how much of the schedule would the chop. For now, it's just two weeks. For now.

Perhaps this is going to be the start of getting somewhere in negotiations. The sides are now losing something meaningful in regular-season games. When you start losing those, you're looking at a situation in which the pressure builds. Every game lost is not only a loss of revenue but probably a number of fans, as many just seem to be fed up already.

However, it's not likely the pressure will build quite yet. October has never been the NHL's most profitable month; it must compete with postseason baseball and the heart of the NFL and college football seasons. The owners seem willing to sacrifice some of these less lucrative early games to get what they want -- lower player salaries.

It likely won't be until around Thanksgiving (the American version, not the Canadian one) that the pressure from missed games will really be felt. The NHL is trying to dig its skates into Black Friday as a day to take the sports spotlight. From there, it's a month-long anticipation culminating in the Winter Classic with HBO's 24/7 series along the way. The belief here is that will be the time during which the gears are really put to work and a deal is hopefully reached.

In the meantime we have the loss of the start of the season to lament.

To see the games that are disappearing from the schedule, here you go. Ahhh, what could have been. It's OK to shed a tear for each game that your favorite team won't play.

In case you were wondering if they might reach an agreement soon so this is the last time the NHL has to cancel games, the following (from Canadian Press' Chris Johnston) probably isn't what you want to see.

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