By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
December 21, 2012
The National Hockey League has canceled games through January 14 and pushed its dispute with its players’ association near the point of no return. So far, the NHL has canceled 625 total games, more than 50% of its schedule. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that 48 games would be the fewest each team could play in "a season with integrity."
Federal mediators have intervened twice in the dispute, which remains stalled over three concepts: the length of the next CBA; limiting players’ contracts to five years, with a seven-year exception for teams re-signing their own free agents; and prohibiting a cap on players’ escrow payments as they transition from a 57% share of hockey-related revenue to a 50-50 split.
On Friday, players completed electronic voting on whether to dissolve their union by filing a disclaimer of interest. Filing a disclaimer is a tactical move designed to hasten negotiations. But the NHL’s latest cancellation has limited the amount of time left to bargain, and no new negotiations are planned.
Unless a resolution is reached by mid-January, the entire 2012-2013 season is in jeopardy, as is the health of a $3.3 billion business and the NHL’s reputation with sponsors and fans.