NHL Cancels 1st 82 Games of Regular Season

The NHL labor dispute claimed the first two weeks of regular-season games — 82 in all — as the lockout advanced into its 18th day with no new labor talks scheduled.

The announcement was made in a two-paragraph statement from the NHL. It isn’t clear if those games will be made up, allowing for a complete 82-game regular season, if a deal can be struck soon with the locked out players.

“The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement. “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.”

Unable to work out how to split up $3 billion in hockey-related revenues with the players’ association, the NHL wiped out 82 games from Oct. 11 through Oct. 24 — beginning with four next Thursday, which would have been the league’s opening night.

“A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort,” Fehr said. “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.”

Although there have been negotiations between the league and players in recent days — unlike the 2004-05 lockout that forced the cancellation of the entire season — the two sides haven’t gotten any closer to a deal on core economic issues.

“Obviously, (cancellations) might have been expected but it’s also disappointing because we set out to negotiate,” New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron. “We wanted to get a deal and wanted to avoid a work stoppage or any cancellations.

“We’re still working hard to find a solution and find a way to get the core economic stuff figured out with the league and getting a deal that is fair for everybody and lasts.”

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly wouldn’t go so far as to say that these 82 games could or would be rescheduled if a new agreement was reached in a timely fashion.

“Certainly fair to say that if we reach a deal, we will be looking to reconfigure (the) schedule in a way that would maximize (the) season consistent with health and safety concerns for the Players,” Daly told ESPN.com via email Thursday afternoon.

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