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NHL cancels All-Star Game and more December games

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman leaves following labor talks

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman leaves following labor talks in New York on Nov. 9, 2012. Credit: AP

The NHL season continues to slip away. With no formal negotiations to end the lockout scheduled, the league on Friday canceled another chunk of its schedule, all games from Dec. 1 through Dec. 14, as well as the All-Star Game, which was to be staged in Columbus on Jan. 27.

For the Rangers and Islanders, it means 29 games each have been scrapped. The overall number of games axed since Oct. 11 is now 422, or 34.3 percent of the season.

If an agreement is reached soon and games can commence on Dec. 15, a 60-game season -- with a revamped conference-only schedule -- remains possible, because some games could be played during the All-Star break and in April.

On the other hand, tension is mounting and a petition by the union to decertify remains an option. Both the NFLPA and the NBPA opted for the move in 2011, which was followed by antitrust suits against the league. Settlements eventually were reached and the unions re-certified.

"On Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is losing $18 million to $20 million per day during the lockout; therefore two more weeks of canceled games far exceeds the current economic gap," said NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, who has discussed the complex decertification option with the players. "It makes the NHL's announcement of further game cancellations, including the 2013 All-Star Weekend, all the more unnecessary, and disappointing for all hockey fans -- especially those in Columbus."

Union leaders have not made public any plans to collect signatures for a petition to the National Labor Relations Board to decertify. In an interview on SiriusXM's hockey channel Friday, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said decertification "would be a death knell for the season."

A new six-page proposal from the union on Wednesday, outlining its economic positions for a five-year deal, including a request for $393 million to honor existing contracts above a 50-50 share in revenues, was not received well by the NHL, which has proposed $211 million for "make-whole" on the contracts, wants a seven-year term and is holding firm on proposed changes to free agency and contract limits.

In a statement, Daly also said the league intends "to work closely with the Blue Jackets organization to return the NHL All-Star events to Columbus and their fans as quickly as possible."

With the Winter Olympics scheduled for Sochi, Russia, in 2014, the earliest the game could be played appears to be 2015.

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