The NHL cancelled another block of regular-season games on Thursday, bringing the total amount of games lost to the lockout over 600.
Per league press release:
The National Hockey League announced today the cancellation of the 2012-13 regular-season schedule through January 14. The cancellations are necessary due to the absence of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players' Association and the NHL.
A total of 625 regular-season games—50.8 percent of the season—were scheduled for October 11 through January 14.
CBA talks have stalled and we are no closer to reaching an agreement that will allow for a shortened 2012-13 season than we were two weeks ago, when owners and players met in New York City.
According to Tom Gulitti of The Record, it doesn't appear that there is much dialogue at the moment:
No communication so far today between the NHL and NHLPA.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) December 20, 2012
How will this cancellation impact the labor talks? Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports explains:
If NHL cancels through Jan. 14, we all know what that means -- soft deadline to cancel season. Some wiggle room, not much.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) December 20, 2012
There is a strong chance that this is the last wave of game cancellations before NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is forced to cancel the second season during his tenure with the league. As much as fans and players dislike Bettman, I do not think he is largely responsible for where we are in this lockout.
The owners have presented the players with a pretty good proposal, which includes almost $400 million to help honor current contracts (via the "make whole" provision), as well as player-contract term limits that are more favorable than what the NBA players agreed to at the end of their lockout last year.
However, from the start of this lockout, it would have been foolish to think that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr would accept a CBA proposal from the owners until the very last minute. It's a risky strategy for Fehr, but it has worked out well for him in the past.
If a deal is going to be made, when could it happen? Daren Millard of Sportsnet shares some interesting information:
Bottom line to @nhl announcement. Partners told puck must drop jan 14th, means D.D. Date 8 to 10 earlier. Let's hope for a ny eve resolution— Daren Millard (@darenmillard) December 20, 2012
Teams would likely need about a week and a half to get everyone together, do a quick training camp and have some time to make roster moves such as trades and free-agent signings.
There are still a lot of restricted and unrestricted free agents who will be looking for a job following the lockout.
The good news for hockey fans is that this madness is almost over. Whether the season is saved and games start in late January, or both sides refuse to negotiate and we lose the year, this nightmare has finally reached its last stage.