NHL cancels November schedule

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to media following the announcement that the New York Islanders will move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Reuters)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to media following the announcement that the New York Islanders will move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Reuters)
Photo by REUTERS
| Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 2:02 p.m.

The Penguins are off until December.

The NHL on Friday canceled regular-season games through Nov. 30, though the league — for now — has kept the lucrative New Year's Day Winter Classic on the docket.

Twenty-three Penguins games have been purged, including 11 at Consol Energy Center. Nine games in October were canceled as part of two previous rounds of cuts.

A Penguins home game last season was worth about $2.1 million to the region, including team revenue, the Tribune-Review reported Sept. 15.

The NHL had canceled games in two-week increments, but Friday's development was not unexpected, as the owners' lockout of players hit Day 41.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement the league “deeply regrets” the latest cancellations. Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement the NHL decision was “deeply disappointing for all hockey fans.”

The sides have not negotiated since Oct. 18. No sessions are scheduled.

The NHL's latest proposal was pulled Friday. It called for an immediate 50/50 split of revenue on a new labor agreement to replace the one that expired Sept. 15.

Players most recently proposed a gradual move toward a 50/50 revenue split.

Owners and players also differ on how current contracts will be honored and structural issues such as method of discipline and future contract lengths.

Players are to receive an escrow check near the end of October. They are paid bimonthly and will miss four salary checks with the latest slate of scrapped games. However, the escrow payment essentially will cover the loss of the first two missed checks.

Had a deal been reached Thursday, the NHL believed a full, 82-game season could have been salvaged, with games starting Nov. 2. Training camps would have opened Friday.

The league has plans for a redrafted schedule of no more than 70 games that would begin Dec. 1 if a deal is struck in November.

The Classic — scheduled for Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs — is considered a big bargaining chip for both sides. The game involves a Canadian club for the first time and is the official start of broadcast network (NBC) coverage of games.

The NHL worked a clause into its contract with the University of Michigan that would limit financial obligation to the school if the Classic is canceled because of a labor dispute.

No Penguins players were at Southpointe for organized training sessions Friday.

“Weren't going to be many guys, so everyone just bailed,” club union rep Craig Adams said in a text message.

Only six Penguins players attended three on-ice workouts this week. The sessions are scheduled to resume Monday, though veterans such as Adams and Matt Cooke said they will more seriously consider options to play elsewhere in the wake of the latest cancellations.

Three Penguins (Evgeni Malkin, Dustin Jeffrey and Deryk Engelland) are playing in Europe on temporary contracts that will allow them to return when the lockout ends.

Sidney Crosby, who has joined about 25 other NHL players for a week of training in Plano, Texas, had said he would “have to seriously look at” his European options if the entire November schedule was whacked.

“It would force me to think about it much differently,” he said. “If they say they're going to end talks for a while, I'm going to have to think about things.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com or 412-380-5635.

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