The standoff between the National Hockey League owners and Players Association continued Thursday with the formal announcement that that league’s preseason games would be canceled due to the labor lockout. The preseason was scheduled to begin on Sunday night with a game between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, but that and 46 other preseason games were nixed, according to Yahoo Sports.
NHL owners and league Commissioner Gary Bettman locked players out on Sept. 16, when the collective bargaining agreement that was put into place following the 2004-05 lockout expired. The regular season is scheduled to begin on Oct. 11, an event seems increasingly unlikely. Sportsnet’s John Shannon tweeted that the earliest possible date for a return to the ice is Oct. 8.
Many of the NHL’s best players have already signed with European teams in an effort to keep in game shape in the event of a resolution.
The good news for hockey fans is that the owners and NHLPA have agreed to meet on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in New York to discuss how to improve players' health and safety, according to the New York Daily News. Also expected to be discussed are medical care, travel, grievance procedures, and pensions and benefits.
Unfortunately the two sides are not expected to broach the biggest subject, which is how the owners and players will split the growing league revenue.
The NHL owners have made it clear they want to reduce the players' take of league revenue from 57 percent, although it was a surprise when the deal the owners proposed wasn’t a 50-50 split. The owners, led by Boston’s Jeremy Jacobs and Philadelphia’s Ed Snider, last offered a six-year-deal that would have the players taking 49 percent before finishing the deal at 47 percent.
The hope is that if the weekend’s talks go well, that could lead to more productive dialogue regarding the major economic issues.
“The revenue split is the key issue, but they are tied into a whole lot of other issues, such as the arbitration process, qualification for free agency and others,” agent Tom Laidlaw told USA Today. “Maybe they won’t get to the point where they agree even on these issues, but at least they will know the point where the other side is getting comfortable. This is a complicated deal and the more little things they can agree on, the easier it gets.”
The Associated Press reported that the pressure will increase on both sides of the bargaining table now that paychecks are at risk. If talks continue to stall, the next thing to be canceled will be regular season games, something that’s expected sometime next week.