NHL cancels more games, All-Star weekend

| Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 2:24 p.m.

Black Friday was another dark day on the NHL labor front.

The NHL canceled games through Dec. 14 as well as the 2013 All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.

The Penguins were to play seven games — three at Consol Energy Center — from Dec. 1-14. With this round of NHL cancellations, the Penguins are out 14 home dates that tourism agency VisitPittsburgh says each are worth about $2.1 million to the region.

The NHL has not announced a drop-dead date to play games this season, but a redrafted schedule for a shortened season — if a deal is struck — is now a certainty for fans with tickets to Penguins games after Dec. 14.

No negotiations are scheduled between the league and players' association, though deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr talked by phone Friday.

The NHL rejected the latest union proposal on Wednesday, and the sides broke for Thanksgiving.

A move by the union to decertify would not scare the NHL, Daly said. The NHLPA has not publicly declared if it intends to disband the union for tactical reasons.

NFL and NBA players decertified during the 2011 labor disputes.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the NFL in July 2011, three months after a federal judge determined the lockout was illegal. No exhibition or regular-season games were missed before the league and union settled.

An NBA lockout wiped out 16 games per team, but a new labor deal was reached 12 days after the basketball Players' Association dissolved Nov. 14, 2011.

In conjunction with decertification moves by their unions, several NFL and NBA players each filed antitrust lawsuits against their respective leagues. Those suits were settled, and the unions recertified, when respective 10-year labor contracts were reached.

Larry Silverman, who spent 10 years as the Pirates' general counsel, said a decertification move by the NHLPA might not hold up in court, but it could spark a resolution to the labor dispute. However, the NHLPA should only use the tactic if the sides are at a dead end, he said.

There are mixed signals about where negotiations stand.

The NHLPA believes it has closed an economic gap on how to share revenue that was a record $3.3 billion last season. Owners seek an immediate 50/50 split of future revenue, and the union has agreed on the condition the league pays $393 million to honor players' current contracts.

The NHL will not pay more than its previously proposed $211 million to honor contracts, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday.

The league is losing about $20 million a day during the lockout, Bettman said.

Players are to receive a paycheck Dec. 15.

The All-Star Game is the second significant NHL event lost to the labor dispute. It was scheduled for Jan. 27 in Columbus, one of the two expansion cities in 2000. The Blue Jackets, who over the summer traded high-priced captain Rick Nash to the New York Rangers, has never hosted an All-Star Game.

The Winter Classic outdoor game, scheduled for New Year's Day on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium, already was canceled.

Future sites for All-Star games are not set, though the NHL may not stage one in 2014 because of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

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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