NHL close to axing entire season

With more than half the schedule lost, league extends game cancellations into mid-January as labour dispute shows no sign of nearing resolution

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 3:30am

The next round of NHL cuts could be the deepest yet.

With no deal in sight and no negotiations planned, the NHL chopped another two weeks off the schedule and edged closer to cancelling the entire ice hockey season.

It is clear the sides are running out of time to reach a deal. The NHL said all games until January 14 had been cancelled. More than half the schedule had been lost, and the rest was now in danger.

"I don't want to characterise what [these] cancellations mean or don't mean," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "I will stand on the announcement that was made." The players' association did not comment.

So far, 625 regular-season games have been called off, including nearly 100 in the announcement made on the 96th day of the NHL's lockout. The New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star game also have been lost.

The NHL had previously cancelled games until December 30.

Daly said in a radio interview that mid-January was probably the latest the sides could wait until before making a deal to save some of the season. When pressed he said he expected the season would be played.

The NHL is already the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labour dispute, having lost the 2004-2005 campaign.

The groups have remained apart since two days of meetings with a federal mediator last week produced no progress. There have been no negotiations since December 6 in New York, when talks broke down after a few days.

The NHL believes negotiations should resume only when there is something new to say.

"I don't think either party is refusing a meeting," Daly said. "But unless there is an indication one side or the other is prepared to move or has a new idea to move the process forward - and so far neither side has indicated - I am not sure what we would do at the meeting."

"What is the agenda? Who is directing the conversation? We don't have anything new to say right now," he said.

Union executive director Donald Fehr said he was glad to hear Daly's belief that there would be a season, and added he hoped Daly was right.

"Hopefully, we'll get back together and negotiate the remaining issues as soon as possible," Fehr said. "[We aren't talking] because the owners have not indicated a desire to resume.

"We've indicated any number of times that we're willing to resume when they are and we're willing to resume without preconditions. So we're waiting to hear back from them."