The NHL lockout officially began when the clock struck midnight and Sept. 15 turned into Sept. 16. But Thursday afternoon is when it got all too real.
In recent weeks, amid inconsistent negotiating sessions, training camps and the preseason went by the wayside. Now, the first two weeks of the regular season are gone, canceled by the NHL with no last-ditch proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Seven Washington Capitals games were axed as part of the decision to wipe out the schedule from Oct. 11 through Oct. 24.
With the league and its Players’ Association far from a deal, there was no chance the Caps were going to open the regular season Oct. 12 against the New Jersey Devils. This move was just a matter of time.
“It was what we felt was necessary and appropriate given where we are on the calendar and where we are in negotiations. No magic to it,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email. “Each cancellation decision we have to make going forward will be individualized based on all the relevant circumstances.”
So far, the Caps lost their opener along with Oct. 13 at Ottawa, Oct. 15 vs. Florida Panthers, Oct. 17 vs. Toronto, Oct. 19 vs. Winnipeg, Oct. 20 at Montreal and Oct. 23 at Winnipeg. More cancellations are expected barring a sudden change in the course of these negotiations.
For now, the tenor of the talks is hostile. Daly came out of recent meetings saying “no progress was made,” and that was when the NHL and NHLPA were talking about issues unrelated to the biggest sticking point: how to divvy up hockey-related revenue.
According to various reports, neither side has made a recent proposal, which made Thursday’s decision to cancel regular-season games all the more galling to some.
“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,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement. “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.”