It wasn’t unexpected, but it still hurts.
After already cancelling the entire pre-season, the NHL has now announced the cancellation of the first two weeks of the 2012-2013 regular season as well.
The league released a short statement yesterday regarding the decision on its website.
Composed of more words than we’ll likely see of hockey games this year, the statement is actually quite tame. It doesn’t venture into the politics behind the decision beyond a passing reference to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) impasse.
“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,” the statement reads.
The decision comes as the league and players’ association continue to find little common ground on a new CBA. It will most likely be followed by further cancellations unless a dramatic breakthrough in the negotiations happens soon.
“The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners,” he argued. “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,” added Fehr.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly responded by expressing disappointment in having to cancel part of the season, but he was careful not to directly address Fehr’s comments.
“We were extremely disappointed to have to make today’s announcement. The game deserves better, the fans deserve better and the people who derive income from their connection to the NHL deserve better,” Daly said.
Daly added that the league remains committed to finding a quick resolution to the lockout.
Beyond Fehr, many of the players he represents have been extremely critical of the league and Commissioner Gary Bettman, suggesting little reason to hope for a settlement anytime soon. This includes harsh words from Alexander Ovechkin, Teemu Selanne, Jarome Iginla and most recently Krys Barch.
Selanne’s comments made for the best headline, referring to Bettman as “the NHL’s most hated person!,” but Barch’s comments have drawn the most attention.
They deserve the most attention, too.
While Barch levelled the majority of his criticism against the league, he also hinted at division among the players. He drew a particularly strong contrast between players like himself who will most likely need to continue working for the majority of their lives after hockey and the select few who will be able to retire with healthy bank accounts.
“One half to 3/4 of my peers will have to work for the next 50 years of their lives. Congratulations to the lucky select few that I have played with who have made salaries that they can choose to do whatever they want when they are done. But I have played most who do not!,” Barch Tweeted to the world.
Alcohol may have been involved. Okay, it was definitely involved.
In any case, it seems not all players are equal. I wonder if Barch has a particular teammate in mind?
Adding another layer of intrigue, Henrik Lundqvist broke ranks with some of his fellow superstars and struck a more conciliatory tone in response to news of the cancellation. He encouraged the league and owners to put aside their differences and end the lockout soon.
After all, Lundqvist just wants to enjoy a real practice and took his frustration to the Twitterverse: “Feels like I’m going to practice without a purpose, and I hate it! Don and Gary, let’s figure this one out!”
The general incoherence of the players’ position – many are strongly critical the league, others are strongly critical of the league while displaying passive aggressiveness towards the upper-stratum of NHL superstars, and a handful simply want to play – doesn’t bode well for an immediate resolution to the labour displace. If the players cannot agree among themselves, how can they reach an agreement with the league?
Tellingly, the league’s position has always been clear and consistent: more money. Benjamin Franklin is the only personality who has grabbed their attention. (“It’s all about the Benjamins.”)
I put my money on the league.
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