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NHL cancels regular-season schedule through Oct. 24

By Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES—The NHL season canceled its regular-season schedule through Oct. 24, carefully wording its announcement to say it wasn’t canceling games—in order to leave open the possibility of playing those games later as part of a condensed schedule.

The season was to have opened on Oct. 11, and the Los Angeles Kings were to have raised their Stanley Cup banner at home on Oct. 12. The Anaheim Ducks were also scheduled to open their season at home on Oct. 12, against San Jose.

The Kings were to have played five games during the now-canceled segment of the schedule, four of them at home. The Ducks were to have played six games in that span, including five at home.

In a news release, the NHL said:

“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.”

NHL Players Association executive director Don Fehr released this statement regarding Thursday:

“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.”

This will be the third time during Gary Bettman’s tenure as commissioner of the NHL that a labor dispute will affect a season. The 1994-95 season was shortened because of a lockout, and the entire 2004-05 season was canceled because the league and the union couldn’t reach a labor agreement.

No full-scale talks between league and players union officials have been held since last weekend, and no negotiations have been scheduled.

The differences remain varied and deep, centered on NHL owners’ efforts to reduce players’ share of hockey-related revenues and players’ refusal to accept a rollback in the form of immediate salary cuts or higher escrow payments.

Revenue sharing is another major point of contention, as is the league’s efforts to toughen the conditions for free agency.

The NHL reported record revenues of $3.3 billion last season but has said its expenses have increased dramatically over the past few seasons.

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