Die-hard hockey fans might need to invest in some classic NHL games on DVD.
It might be the only taste of hockey for months.
There’s no telling when the NHL lockout will end, especially when neither the league nor the NHLPA has committed to face-to-face negotiations to end the labor unrest. There were no formal talks Sunday on the first day of the lockout, the league’s fourth shutdown since 1992, including a year-long dispute that forced the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season when the league successfully held out for a salary cap.
And there are no formal talks planned.
The league issued a statement to fans on its website that it was “committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the players and to the 30 NHL teams.”
The clock is ticking and there’s no new collective bargaining agreement in sight. The league could start to announce this week the cancellation of preseason games and there’s little chance training camps will open on time. The regular season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11, but that obviously is in peril.
Day 1 of the lockout could serve as a preview for the next several cold months: Empty rinks, empty talk.
“This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room,” the league said. “The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans.”
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog were among the players participating in an NHLPA video to fans that was posted on YouTube. With black-and-white photos of each player as a backdrop, they talked about how much the game meant to them, and thanked fans for their support.
“We understand the people that suffer the most are the fans,” Crosby said.
Some players won’t wait for labor talks to pick up — they’ve already packed up.
As of Sunday morning, all NHL players were free to speak to other leagues. Many will land in Russia’s KHL, and two big names already signed. Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin and Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar agreed to deals with Metallurg. More will surely follow.
Malkin, a 26-year-old center with the Penguins, is the NHL’s reigning MVP. The 38-year-old Gonchar is a defenseman who helped lead the Senators to the playoffs last season.
Although the club provided no further details of their contracts, it said that they would comply with KHL regulations on signing NHL players during the lockout. Under these rules, KHL teams can sign a maximum of three NHL players above their limit of 25.
The KHL also sets the ceiling for the salaries of NHL players at a maximum of 65 percent of what they earn under their NHL deals. Malkin has two years and $16.5 million remaining on his deal with Pittsburgh. Gonchar has one year and $5.5 million left with Ottawa.