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Likelihood Of Full NHL Season Becomes More Unlikely

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

The NHL’s full 82-game schedule appears more and more unlike it will happen, as labor negotiations between the league and the players’ association bog down.

“Unfortunately, it looks like an 82-game season is not going to be a reality,” commissioner Gary Bettman said at a news conference from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, announcing the Islanders’ relocation starting with the 2015-16 season.

Bettman painted a bleak picture on the state of negotiations with players and said the union “has chosen not to engage on our proposal.”

Asked what it would take for the two sides to get back to the negotiating table, Bettman said “a reason to get back to the table. There’s always a reason because, of course, we want to be playing, but in terms of the negotiations themselves, as we indicated, we made our best offer to save an 82-game season and it was not something that the Players’ Association demonstrated any interest in.”

The league made its last offer to the NHLPA last Tuesday, one that included a 50/50 revenue split and a provision to “make whole” existing player contracts by employing deferred payments. The union responded two days later with a trio of its own offers. However, all three were rejected by the league within 10 minutes.

The union requested a formal meeting with the league Tuesday night but was rebuffed. The NHL maintained that if the NHLPA was unwilling to work off the league’s last proposal, then a meeting wasn’t necessary.

Bettman said he had no indication as to when the league and union would resume negotiations.

“We suggested they could talk to us about what we proposed or make on offer of (their) own and they declined to do either.”

The lack of traction in negotiations resulted in the second block of cancellations by the league last week, and more appear to be on the way.

According to a source with knowledge of the league’s plan, there is likely to be a significant round of cancellations by the end of this week if no progress is made. That source also told ESPNNewYork.com that the league’s marquee moneymaker, the Winter Classic, is very much in jeopardy of being canceled soon.

Asked when the league would be forced to make a decision on the annual outdoor game, Bettman responded “very soon.”

“I’m not going to give you an exact timetable, but at some point in November we will have to commit many millions of dollars to get ready for the Winter Classic, so if there’s still uncertainty, we’re going to have to make a decision. And my guess is, we’re not going to commit those dollars unless we have certainty.”

Bettman also indicated the league’s last offer is unlikely to improve the longer the lockout endures.

“We made our very best offer, and that offer was contingent upon playing an 82-game season, for better or for worse,” he said, “so I think things, in some respects, may get more difficult.”

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