No Hockey October: NHL Cancels 82 Games.

The NHL announced yesterday the cancellation of the 2012-2013 season through October 24.  A total of 82 games were scheduled between the official start of the regular season (October 11) and the 24th, meaning we’re missing out on some serious ice time.

The NHL posted in a brief notice yesterday afternoon:

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

The NHL and NHLPA had met on several occasions over the weekend, sparking the first formal negotiations since the lockout began on September 16.  While most reports from the scene of the talks held in New York were that the two sides did not discuss the core economic issues that screeched progressive CBA negotiations to a halt in the weeks leading up to the deadline, it is clear now that we are no closer to an agreement or a hockey season.

Why make this call now?  Why 82 games?

Only a few days before the previously scheduled start of the season, the NHL is using every play it has to motivate hasty negotiations in their favor.  By canceling almost an entire month of regular season match-ups right off the bat, the owners are clenching their fists right in the union’s face, daring it to fight, or give up.

The players’ union is (at least in their public statements) remaining steadfast and committed to not wavering under their described bullying by the NHL.  Executive Director of the NHLPA had this to say in his statement yesterday:

“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.”

Regardless, this latest move by the NHL sets us up for a pattern of new deadlines and premature schedule cuts in an effort to use the lockout in exactly the way Fehr stated: a strategy.

Let’s not forget NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s earlier promise to cancel the 2013 Winter Classic event if no agreement is reached by November.  As long as the NHL has the power to create it’s own deadlines and hold the power of a lockout over the union’s head, they will always have the upper hand in “negotiations,” if that’s what we’re still calling them at this point.

I can understand the NHL’s motivations in trying to move things along, they are losing millions in this arrangement as well, but I can’t wrap my head around how impromptu deadlines and game cancellations can help healthy and productive discussions for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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