The NHL has crossed out all December games from the regular-season schedule, and if the dispute between the billionaire team owners and the millionaire players isn't settled soon the whole season could be lost.
The latest round of cancellations means 526 games have already been eliminated, which accounts for nearly half of the regular season that was scheduled to begin October 11. The New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star game were canceled earlier.
Yet another round of negotiations broke off last week, but AP reports, quoting NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, that the teams’ bosses and the players will restart talks this week.
The two sides will need to work much quicker than previously on a new collective bargaining agreement. Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week that a season must consist of at least 48 games to protect its integrity. The same pattern was used during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.
“When it gets to the point where we can't play a season with integrity, with a representative schedule, then we'll be done,” AP quotes Bettman as saying. “If you go back in history, in `94-95 I think we played 48 games. I can't imagine wanting to play fewer than that.”
If the up-coming talks bring no result the NHL would lose the full season for the second time in eight years. The latest lockout, which produced a salary cap for the first time in league history, was the first labor dispute to force a totally canceled season in North American professional sports.
Meanwhile, the cancellation is good news for Russian fans, who are sure to see the country’s cream of the crop including the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeny Malkin and Alex Ovechkin at the Moscow round of the Euro Hockey Tour.