It has become a common occurrence during the last three months for the National Hockey League to cancel two weeks worth of games.
It happened again Thursday, although that was probably the last time. A day earlier, Bill Daly, the league’s deputy commissioner, indicated in a radio interview that games needed to start by mid-January if there is to be any sort of season.
Thus, the next time the league has to cancel games because of the lockout imposed by owners on Sept. 16 it likely will be the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
“I don’t think there is a date circled,” Daly told The Fan 590 on Wednesday. “Obviously as we’re moving toward the end of December, you have to think about what’s realistic and how many games you can play. The commissioner is on record saying we’re not looking to play a season that’s less than 48 games.
“We have a general sense of when we have to be playing hockey by. It’s fair to say it’s some time in mid-January.”
As it is now, a total of 625 contests (50.8 percent of the season) have been lost to the work stoppage.
The latest to go were those from Jan. 1-14. That announcement came 10 days after the Dec. 15-31 games were eliminated. The cancellations started Oct. 4, less than a week before the scheduled start of the season, when the first two weeks of play vanished.
There have been no substantive talks between the sides in recent days.
Instead, the NHL Players Association has spent the last few days voting on whether to dissolve the union, which would create the opportunity for players to file anti-trust lawsuits and/or challenge the legality of the lockout. The NHL preemptively countered last Friday with a class-action filing in federal court in New York that seeks a declaration on the legality of the lockout.
“We have to find a way to have discussions, because it's very hard to come to an agreement if you're not talking to one another,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said at a charity hockey game Wednesday, according to numerous reports. "It's very hard to come to an agreement if you set pre-conditions to the negotiations, too."
Eight years ago, the entire 2004-05 season was lost to a lockout.