NEW YORK (AP) — The NHL's next cuts will be the deepest and most costly.
With only days remaining to make a deal with the players' association on a new collective bargaining agreement that will allow for a full hockey season, the NHL canceled another week of games Friday.
A day after the NHL turned down three counterproposals from players, the league wiped out 53 more games. A total of 135 games through Nov. 1 have been scratched, which amounts to 11 percent of the season.
"As expected," New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron told The Associated Press in a text message. "We continue to work hard to find an agreement and get back to playing hockey."
These lost games could still become mere postponements. If a new contract is reached with the union by Thursday, the NHL will be able to get the season under way on Nov. 2, and each team will play all 82 games after a weeklong training camp.
However, a quick settlement to end the lockout sure seems like a longshot. Without a new deal, more games will be eliminated along with the hope of playing a full season.
In its third lockout since 1994, the NHL is sticking to its most recent proposal that stated an 82-game-per-team schedule could be played if the season begins by Nov. 2. Two weeks ago, the league called off 82 games from Oct. 11-24.
On Thursday, the union rejected the NHL's proposal made two days earlier that offered a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues and ensured a full regular-season schedule. In brief talks, the players countered with a trio of offers that were, in turn, quickly dismissed by the league.
"We are disappointed that the NHL has canceled more games as a result of the owners' lockout," said former player Mathieu Schneider, now the NHLPA special assistant to the executive director. "The players made another major move in the negotiations this week in an effort to end the lockout, by presenting the owners with a proposal that gets to a 50-50 split of revenues.
"In return, we expect that owners will honor the current contracts they have already signed, which everyone knows is fair."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he was "thoroughly disappointed" as he and the league delegation left union headquarters in Toronto on Thursday. Bettman said that the owners' proposal was the "best that we could do" and added that the sides are still far apart.
"None of the three variations of player share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50, either at all or for some long period of time," Bettman said. "It's clear we're not speaking the same language."
No new talks are scheduled.
If next Thursday's deadline passes, more games will likely be cut and the New Year's Day Winter Classic will be the next big event in danger of being lost. The Detroit Red Wings are slated to host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the outdoor extravaganza at Michigan Stadium.
Union executive director Donald Fehr said two of the union's proposals would have the players take a fixed amount of revenue, which would turn into an approximate 50-50 split over the term of the deal, provided league revenues continued to grow.
The third approach would be a 50-50 split, as long as the league honored all existing contracts at full value.
None of it made any positive impression on the NHL.
"This is not a good day," Fehr said Thursday. "It should have been."
This is nothing new in the world of hockey. A lockout eight years ago caused the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season, marking the only time a North American sports league lost a full year to a labor dispute.