One day after the expiry of a deadline to save a full 82-game schedule, the NHL officially cancelled games through Nov. 30 on Friday.
"The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to Player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have preserved an 82-game regular season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.
"We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the players and the clubs — one that will be good for the game and our fans."
Friday's announcement could result in 326 regular-season games — or 26.5 per cent of the season — missed should the entire month of November be lost.
NHLPA executive Director Donald Fehr said the news was unfortunate but hardly unexpected.
"The league officially informed us today that they have withdrawn their latest proposal and have cancelled another slate of regular season games," he said through a union statement. "This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players. But it comes as no surprise."
Fehr also met with players and attended a charity game Friday night in Rosemont, Ill, and was trying to make sense of the situation.
"The only thing I'll say about the conversation is, and we repeatedly get asked, 'What is there in the NHL offer that moved in our direction?'" Fehr said. "My problem is all I can do is shrug my shoulders, because I don't know what it is."
A league source also told ESPN that the NHL will cancel the Winter Classic and all-star game with an announcement scheduled for next.
However, Daly said that a quick decision on the status of both events aren't expected.
The annual Winter Classic was set for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., a contest featuring the Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1.
According to the contract the league signed with the University of Michigan to use its stadium for the Winter Classic, the NHL would recover all but $100,000 US of its $3-million rental fee if it was to cancel the event by Nov. 2 or sooner.
It's believed the league would stand to lose more than the estimated $30 million it earned from last year's Winter Classic if the 2013 edition was cancelled.
"They're going to keep exercising the power that they have to be able to lock us out, and the thought that they can cancel games to try to sway us their way," Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We'll see what happens in the next little while and see where it goes from there."
Last week, the NHL made a 50-50 proposal to the players on all hockey-related revenues (HRR), giving the National Hockey League Players' Association an Oct. 25 deadline to accept the deal and save the entire regular season.
Two days later, the union sent the owners three counterproposals, which were quickly rejected by the league.
"To be honest with you, more than anything it seems like it's more of a scare tactic to us," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. "The only reason why is they can cancel those games. It don't think it really means too much."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman maintained a deal needed to be in place by a league-mandated Oct. 25 deadline, allowing for a week of training camp which would've been followed by a full 82-game schedule commencing on Nov. 2.
Both parties now face a difficult task of reaching a new CBA deal if they hope to salvage any of the cancelled games.
"We obviously want to reach an agreement as soon as possible and when we do, we will try to put together a schedule that will maximize the number of regular season games we can play, subject to reasonable logistical and scheduling parameters we will have to discuss with the players," Daly told The Associated Press in an email.
"Having said that, once clubs begin releasing dates and rebooking their buildings, as they will be free to do for the month of November, the process will obviously get more difficult and complicated."
The NHL and NHLPA met in Toronto 48 hours after the owners’ proposal to discuss three of the union’s counteroffers. One proposal called for a gradual move toward a "50-50" split of revenues if current contracts are honoured.
Here is the total number of games missed over the last 20 years by all four North American professional leagues should the NHL’s entire month of November be lost.
- NHL: 2,042
- MLB: 938
- NBA: 504
- NFL: 0
Players received 57 per cent of the $3.3-billion US revenue generated last season. Based on numbers from the 2011-12 campaign, players would forfeit $231 million a year if they accepted a 50-50 split.
But the league wouldn’t budge.
Bettman, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and four owners quickly dismissed all three proposals.
"Last week the owners gave us what amounts to a "take-it-or-leave-it" proposal," said Fehr. "We responded with the framework for three proposals on the players’ share, each of which moved significantly, towards their stated desire for a 50-50 split of HRR, with the only condition being that they honour contracts they have already signed. Honouring contracts signed between owners and players is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, after considering them for only 10 minutes they rejected all of our proposals.
"Since then, we have repeatedly advised the owners that the players are prepared to sit down and negotiate on any day, with no pre-conditions. The owners refused. They apparently are only interested in meeting if we first agree to everything in their last offer, except for perhaps a few minor tweaks and discussion of their 'make whole' provision."
The acrimony only grew when news surfaced Tuesday that owners and general managers were granted a 48-hour window last week to talk with players regarding the league’s latest contract offer — a development that didn’t sit well with the union.
"Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings," said Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's special counsel. "No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot."