- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Washington Capitals yesterday canceled their first two regular-season home games in October, as well as all of their home preseason games, because of the NHL’s ongoing lockout.

NHL executives are allowing teams to release dates back to building owners on a rolling 30-day basis, creating the opportunity to bring in revenue through the scheduling of other events. Those teams taking the league up on the offer were asked to have their club presidents issue the following quote in their own names:

“Commissioner [Gary] Bettman has advised all teams that they are free to release building dates up to 30 days into the future beginning Sept.15 and continuing each day until further notification. Games will continue to be canceled on a similar basis until the league’s labor dispute with the NHL Players Association has been resolved, at which time the league will address the potential rescheduling of games.”

While a seemingly harsh step, supplying a previously prepared statement to each club follows NHL policy to have nearly all public comment on the labor situation come from the league office.

The cancellations come as little surprise given the harsh polarity existing between owners and players. No negotiations have been held in nearly two weeks, and the two sides remain divided on the need for a salary cap.

Freeing up the dates, meanwhile, provides little relief for Washington Sports & Entertainment, the operator of MCI Center. WSE executives typically need 60 to 90 days notice to book a new event, something that may not be provided unless the NHL cancels the entire season. Such a drastic move is expected in January if there is still no collective bargaining agreement.

“This isn’t going to change much for us until we know something more,” said Matt Williams, WSE vice president. “Thirty days doesn’t give us much of a window to book anything.”

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