SILENCE and stalemate marked the beginning of an NHL lockout late Saturday night as the league and the NHL Players Association came to the end of their 2005 labour deal with no replacement in sight.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been saying for months the lockout would be imposed if no new collective bargaining agreement was in place. There was no statement from the league Saturday night.
As of this morning, training camps will not open this week as normally scheduled, and it'll only be a day or two before Bettman begins to cancel exhibition games.
It's the league's fourth labour disruption since 1992 and its third straight lockout.
In 2004-05, the entire season was lost because of impasse over system issues. The eventual resolution didn't come until July, 2005 and included the hard salary cap that the NHL owners were seeking.
This time around, the league and the players have been officially bargaining since just June 29 and the sides have been unable to come up with a way to divide hockey-related revenue (HRR) that has grown from $2.1 billion in 2005 to $3.3 billion last season.
In the expired deal, the players earned a share that had escalated to 57 per cent of HRR and the league's salary cap had risen to US $70.2 million.
The owners, through Bettman, insist that's become too burdensome and in offers so far, have sought to reduce that to less than 50 per cent.
The players, meanwhile, don't want any reduction in salaries or contracts and have proposed they simply take less of an increase from what they believe will be further NHL growth.
This past week in New York, both sides assembled large crowds. The players held a meeting with union executive director Donald Fehr and 283 members.
All 30 owners met with Bettman on Thursday afternoon.
Both sides held press conferences. There was no bargaining on Thursday, Friday or Saturday this week, thought the league and the PA did have some communication on Saturday, more or less agreeing they had no reason to meet.
Saturday, NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr, Donald Fehr's brother, called Saturday's looming lockout "the owners' self-imposed deadline," again underscoring the fact that the players have offered repeatedly to simply play on under the terms of the old deal.
The players won't fret too much about the loss of training camp or pre-season games. They are not paid their regular salaries for either.
NHL players begin to be paid when the regular season begins on Oct. 11, and their first paycheque normally follows a couple of weeks later.
Since 2005, even with that new CBA's 24 per cent salary rollback, the average NHL player's salary has gone from $1.45 million to $2.45 million, a bump of about 70 per cent.