By Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES—As expected, the NHL on Thursday canceled the remainder of its scheduled exhibition games, putting an on-time start to the season in serious jeopardy.
The season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11. However, with labor talks at a stalemate and the sides due to meet Friday to discuss only “non-core economic issues,” a resolution that would save the full season seems ever more unlikely.
The NHL, which had previously canceled exhibition games through Sept. 30, issued a terse statement Thursday announcing its move.
“The cancellation of the preseason schedule was necessary because of the absence of a collective bargaining agreement between the NHL Players’ Assn. and the NHL,” the statement read.
The league and the union have scheduled full-scale talks for Friday in New York, their first major negotiating session since a few days before Commissioner Gary Bettman imposed the lockout late Sept. 15.
Since then, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr have met several times, but they haven’t resolved the issues central to the dispute: the share of revenue players will get under the next labor deal. The NHL is also pushing for longer entry-level contracts and tougher qualifications for free agency.
Daly said Wednesday that among the issues to be discussed Friday are grievance arbitration, system arbitration, off-ice discipline, drug testing, ice conditions and workers’ compensation insurance. Bettman and union leader Donald Fehr are expected to attend Friday’s meeting, along with some player representatives. The league and union are prepared to talk through the weekend if talks get enough traction.