The NHL on Thursday canceled the first two weeks of the regular season — 82 games in all — through Oct 24.
Included are five Blackhawks games, starting with the home opener that was to be played Oct. 13 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Four other Hawks games were canceled, including two scheduled for the United Center.
While those games could be rescheduled, the league and NHL Players Association have no plans to meet, and there is no end in sight to the lockout, which began Sept. 15.
“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 Thursday. “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.
“A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. 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.”
Meanwhile, players continue to flee to Europe to play.
Three Hawks have signed to play overseas with more certainly to follow should the lockout continue. Bryan Bickell has signed to play in Austria with Orli Znojmo while Michal Frolik and Michal Rozsival are playing in the Czech League with HC Chomutov and HC Plzen, respectively.
Both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have said they will wait before committing to play in Europe.
On Thursday, Philadelphia Flyers star Claude Giroux signed with Berlin in the German pro league.
That’s four of the five top scorers from last season heading overseas during the lockout. Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk have signed with teams in the Russian-based KHL, and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza is in Switzerland.
Only Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos has yet to make overseas arrangements.
Among the other stars already playing in Europe are Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere.
“We were extremely disappointed to have to make today’s announcement,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “The game deserves better, the fans deserve better and the people who derive income from their connection to the NHL deserve better.
“We remain committed to doing everything in our power to forge an agreement that is fair to the players, fair to the teams and good for our fans. This is not about ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ a negotiation. This is about finding a solution that preserves the long-term health and stability of the league and the game.”
With no talks on the horizon, frustration is building on both sides.
“I’m really not sure where we go from here,” Daly told TSN.ca. “We have done everything we can think of to try to engage the PA and invite them into a negotiation. But they aren’t biting. I guess their definition of negotiating is making a proposal and standing pat until the other side accepts it.”
The NHLPA contends it is willing to discuss all economic issues, but isn’t willing to consider the NHL’s call for an immediate salary reduction in any form.
Daly estimated the league has already lost $100 million in revenue by wiping out all preseason games.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.