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More NHL games likely to be lost Friday

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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, 6:58 p.m.
 

Penguins winger Matt Cooke expects the NHL on Friday to cancel more regular-season games and withdraw its latest offer as the lockout heads toward a sixth full weekend.

“Oh, and I expect them to cancel the Winter Classic, too,” Cooke said Thursday.

Whatever happens — the NHL had insisted Thursday was the deadline to come to terms and save a full, 82-game season — members of the Players' Association will not be surprised.

As of late Thursday, the NHL was considering a plan to wipe out all games in November, though games could be made up if a deal was reached next month. Also, the league would not eliminate the New Year's Day outdoor game before Nov. 15.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined to comment regarding specifics but said the league was considering many scenarios.

“Nothing that has happened so far has surprised me,” Penguins union rep Craig Adams said. “And it's not like I expect a deal (Friday) or over the weekend. I know too much about what's going on.

“But I still believe we're going to play hockey this season.”

Cooke and Adams, both of whom experienced the 2004-05 lockout, predicted games will begin by Thanksgiving.

Fans, not to mention local businesses and league and team employees, would settle for negotiations resuming by Halloween. League employees already are working reduced schedules.

Players, who will receive an escrow payment at the end of the month, will miss a second paycheck Oct. 31.

Seven days have passed without negotiations. No talks are scheduled.

The season will not begin Nov. 2 as the NHL proposed in its Oct. 16 offer. That offer will not be on the table as of Friday, Daly said.

The reason there were no talks from Oct. 19 through Thursday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, is that the union's three proposals did not satisfy the league's needs.

Owners want financial relief from the cost of running the game. Their Oct. 16 proposal called for an immediate 50/50 split of revenue. Players, who collected 57 percent of revenue over seven years of the last labor deal, agreed to that split in proposals the union made Oct. 19 — but those offers were rejected by the NHL, which did not agree to the union's proposed gradual move toward 50/50.

Other dividing issues are how current contracts will be paid in full, the power to discipline and length of veteran contracts.

Appearing on “The Tonight Show” on Wednesday, President Barack Obama challenged the sides to “figure it out.” Meanwhile, arenas such as Consol Energy Center sit empty other than for attractions like rocker Bruce Springsteen, who will play here Saturday with his E Street Band.

A Penguins home game was worth about $2.1 million in regional revenue last season, according to a study commissioned by tourism agency VisitPittsburgh.

Cooke, Adams and Pascal Dupuis said they will remain in town next week for more on-ice sessions. They expect to be joined by teammates Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, who are training with about 25 other NHL players this week in Plano, Texas.

No Penguins players spoke last week with majority co-owner Mario Lemieux or general manager Ray Shero, as the league permitted for a 48-hour window, Cooke said.

“The funny thing to me is that none of our guys even knew about that option,” Cooke said. “And what are we going to talk about?”

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