The chances of the NHL playing an 82-game regular season are razor-thin. In fact, there is a far greater chance of a block of games in November being canceled Thursday.
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With no talks between the players and the league scheduled before the league's self-imposed Thursday deadline to reach a deal and play a full schedule, which would require a one-week training camp and a Nov. 2 start, commissioner Gary Bettman was blunt. "Unfortunately, it looks like the 82-game season is not going to be a reality," he said at Barclays Center, where the Islanders' move from Nassau Coliseum for the 2015-16 season was announced Wednesday. "If we go past Nov. 2, we cannot play an 82-game season."
Bettman also said a decision on whether to cancel the annual Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs in Michigan Jan. 1 will have to be made "at some point in November."
The NHL offered a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with a "make-whole" provision that would defer some money on existing contracts and pay it over the length of those deals. But the proposal was contingent on playing a full season.
Rather than negotiating off that framework, the players offered three other proposals last Thursday, which the league immediately rejected, and no bargaining sessions have been held since. On Tuesday, the players offered to meet, with no strings attached, but were turned down by the league, which has dug in.
"The players made multiple core-economic proposals on Thursday that were a significant move in the owners' direction," union executive director Donald Fehr said Wednesday night. "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."
"The union has chosen not to engage on our proposal or to make a new proposal on their own," Bettman said. "The fact of the matter is 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 . . . I think things, in some respects, may get more difficult."