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NHL pulls plug on November games

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The National Hockey League has pulled the plug on all regular-season games scheduled through to the end of November.

A press release issued by the league this afternoon states:

"The National Hockey League announced today the cancellation of the 2012-13 regular-season schedule through November 30 because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL. A total of 326 regular-season games – 26.5 percent of the season -- were scheduled for Oct. 11 through Nov. 30."

And for fans of the Winnipeg Jets that means the cancellation of 20 games, including nine at home and marquee matchups against Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks and other visits from Original Six rivals like the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.

"It’s tough. By this point we’ve gone through so many emotions," said Jet defenceman Mark Stuart after skating this morning at the MTS Iceplex. "It’s up and down… you’re hopeful one day and then not so much another. It’s anger some days, but now it’s trying to keep that wait-and-see (outlook). Optimism is getting smaller and smaller but that’s all you can do to stay sane: try to keep that optimism and hope we can bridge that gap."

The league and its players union have been unable to reach a deal to replace the expired CBA and the players have been locked out since Sept. 15th.The league will not cancel the Winter Classic or All-Star game today although they could be on the block as early as Monday.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly issued this statement:

"The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action. By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to Player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have preserved an 82-game Regular Season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.

 "We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the Players and the Clubs -- one that will be good for the game and our fans."

The NHLPA countered with their own take not long after the announcement. Its press release states:

"The league officially informed us today that they have withdrawn their latest proposal and have cancelled another slate of regular season games. This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players. But it comes as no surprise.

"Last week the owners gave us what amounts to a "take-it-or-leave-it" proposal. We responded with the framework for three proposals on the players’ share, each of which moved significantly, towards their stated desire for a 50-50 split of HRR, with the only condition being that they honour contracts they have already signed. Honouring contracts signed between owners and players is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, after considering them for only 10 minutes they rejected all of our proposals.

"Since then, we have repeatedly advised the owners that the players are prepared to sit down and negotiate on any day, with no pre-conditions. The owners refused. They apparently are only interested in meeting if we first agree to everything in their last offer, except for perhaps a few minor tweaks and discussion of their "make whole" provision.

"The message from the owners seems to be: if you don't give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking. They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate. We hope they return to the table in order to get the players back on the ice soon."

 Lost revenue is now believed to be north of $100 million but will quickly escalate as more games are lost. The league will also withdraw its latest proposal as it was based on playing an 82-game schedule which the NHL says is no longer possible.

Games could be re-scheduled if an agreement is reached. If the schedule is reduced to 72 games, players will lose 12 per cent of their salaries. A 62-game schedule would see them lose as much as 24 per cent of salaries.

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter:@WFPEdTait

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Updated on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 11:36 AM CDT: Corrects number of cancelled Jets games

1:20 PM: Updates and new headline

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