The NHL will have to take the knife to its schedule.
Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed Wednesday to reporters in New York the league won't have a labour deal in place by Thursday's deadline to salvage an 82-game schedule.
While the league had hoped to open training camp Saturday and have the schedule start Nov. 2, the two sides can't even agree to meet to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement. Unless the NHL Players' Association or the NHL backs off in its stance the stalemate will continue.
"It looks like the 82-game season is not going to be a reality," said Bettman, who was in Brooklyn to announce the New York Islanders' move there in 2015.
While NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr reached out late Tuesday in an attempt to set up a meeting in New York this week, the league dismissed the notion without any second thought.
The league doesn't feel there is any need to meet if the union has no intention of discussing the offer Bettman tabled last week in Toronto, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told QMI Agency in an e-mail late Tuesday.
The union wanted to get together to see if there could be another path to a solution. The players made three offers to the NHL last Thursday but were turned down by Bettman without a second thought.
Sources say the NHL doesn't want to hold talks unless they're going to be fruitful. The sides have had talks about less contentious issues, but if a labour deal is to be finalized an agreement on a revenue split has to be in place.
"I would say they're at is an impasse," a league insider said. "They made some progress last week by moving closer in numbers. Now, neither side wants to budge and neither wants to come off its position."
It would be incumbent on the NHLPA to either pick up the phone to put a new offer on the table or be willing to negotiate off the 50-50 revenue split proposed last week.
The players don't want to do that. In a conference call Tuesday to update the players -- in the wake of the league having given owners and general managers a 48-hour window to speak with players about the offer -- nobody was ready to jump ship.
Sources say the players don't believe they've seen the league's best offer and this is all posturing. They believe the owners never had any intention of doing a deal before the start of November and after the players missed two cheques.
The players missed their first paycheque Oct. 15 (which was for only four days) and will take a bigger hit Oct. 30 when their second cheque isn't deposited into their accounts. That's when the pain really will be felt.
The NHL likely will pull the plug on a large chunk of the schedule Friday. There is talk it could be as much as two months, but four weeks is more likely because it would seem hasty to take down the month of December at this point.
There's also the matter of the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 in Ann Arbor, Mich. The league reportedly has a Nov. 20 drop-dead date for the game, but some think it is earlier than that.
The league is hoping the players may panic if a large number of games is cancelled, although the owners are missing out on revenues, too, with pressure from sponsors to get a deal done.
"Sure, you can play an abbreviated season," Bettman said. "I would rather play a full season, and I am sure our fans would rather we play a full season.
That's why we made the offer we did. That was our fourth offer against really one offer from the union in all the time that we've been negotiating."
As QMI Agency has reported, some hard-line owners would back Bettman if he were to announce Friday the league was cancelling the rest of the season. That won't happen because neither sides honestly wants to lose the year.
"Maybe cancelling a lot of games sends the players a message," the insider said.
Getting together, having serious negotiations and a deal in place would send a better message.
NO REASON TO MEET, BETTMAN SAYS
Gary Bettman sent a message to the NHLPA Wednesday: Getting a deal done won't get easier.
With the chances of an 82-game schedule out the window, the NHL commissioner told reporters in New York losing a full season means the collective bargaining agreement isn't going to improve with the next offer.
Unhappy NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr rebuffed the league's offer for a full schedule, Bettman maintained the NHL isn't willing to go any further than the 50-50 offer tabled last week.
"There's just some times where you need to take time off because it's clear that you can't do anything to move the process forward and we're at one of those points right now because we gave our very best offer," said Bettman.
"That offer, for better or for worse, was contingent on playing an 82-game season so I think things in some respects may get more difficult."
Asked why they didn't at least sit down with the union with the final hour approaching to save a full season, Bettman said there wasn't any reason.
"We said to them that we are prepared to meet if you want to discuss our offer or if you want to make a new offer. They have no inclination on doing either and so there really was no point in meeting," said Bettman.
Fehr fired back at Bettman late Wednesday.
"The players made multiple core-economic proposals on Thursday that were a
significant move in the owners direction," he said. "We are and continue
to be ready to meet to discuss how to resolve our remaining differences,
with no preconditions. For whatever reason, the owners are not. At the
same time they are refusing to meet, they are winding the clock down to
yet another artificial deadline they created."