NHL Cancels remaining Pre-Season Games, Canes Announce "Loyalty" Incentives, and Negotiation D-Day

Bruce Bennett - Getty Images

What can we look forward to this weekend in the continuing NHL labor struggle.

Word broke on twitter around 2:00 PM this afternoon that the NHL would cancel the remaining pre-season games. The official word came later, and is posted below for our perusal. It's brief and to the point.

NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League announced today the cancellation of the remainder of the 2012 preseason schedule.

The cancellation of the preseason schedule was necessary because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players' Association and the NHL.

The Hurricanes, as stated a few days ago, announced a set of loyalty incentives for season ticket holders. The full article can be found over at hurricanes.com here, but the highlights include:

  1. 5% simple interest on money kept in ticket accounts (accrued beginning September 16, 2012 through the duration of the work stoppage), which can be used toward additional 2012-13 regular season or playoff tickets, or toward 2013-14 season ticket renewals
  2. 10% discount off the season ticket price for the 2013-14 season
  3. 5% discount off the season ticket price for the 2014-15 season

On odd thing happened though on the way to cancelling regular season games. Michael Russo () tweeted that an NHLPA rep was telling the players that the negotiation session set for Friday had been expanded to three days. That was later picked up by others before finally being verified by Bill Daly himself. Tim Pannaccio () tweeted that the focus would be non-economic issues, and, that if progress was made, the economic issues would be addressed next week.

We'll examine what this means after the jump.

The cancellation of additional games can never be seen as a good thing. The fact is there will be no pre-season games this year and that puts the start of the regular season in great jeopardy. On the other hand the sides are meeting for three days. During the previous lockout it was almost three months from the expiration of the CBA until the sides met again. The fact that not only are the sides meeting but that the NHL has yet to cancel regular season games has to be seen as a least some reason for optimism.

Right now, things are truly up in the air. As we discussed in a previous article on Canes Country, Both sides are quickly approaching the point where they will start to be impacted by these CBA negotiations. The cancellation of pre--season games has a mild, if negligible, impact on the owners and no impact on the players. As of now, neither side has had to gamble with real money. That all changes in a few short days.

The season is set to open on October 11. To keep that date there will need to be the framework of a deal in place by Monday or, at the latest, Tuesday. After that it's going to be almost impossible to get the players in to camp, get the physicals completed, and have a few practices before opening night. Is it possible to get there form here? Yes, it's possible. Perhaps the thing so maddeningly annoying about this issue is how easy the solution, at least on the core economic issue, is. I won't be the first to say that a 50-50 split phased in over a few seasons is the way to go. Sure, there are some minor details there to be worked out, but both sides, if they agree to the basic principle, stand to lose more by not playing than they do by playing.

The question then, with three days of meetings planned, is how will we know if things are going well or not? My guess is that the less we hear out of the negotiations, the better things are going. This means no tweets from players asking why they should take a paycut when revenues are up, eh Paul Bissonette? This means few, if any, press conferences from Fehr and Bettman after the sessions end each day.

The thing working for those of us hoping to get hockey going is that the NHL and NHLPA will be able to operate under the radar this weekend. The NFL settling with the Referees Association will be the dominant sports headline this weekend. The MLB post-season races and college football are going to be big stories further diverting the attention of sports fans. The Sunday Morning political shows are going to be focused on the presidential candidates as they prepare for the first debate next week. That's a full news cycle, especially for what is shaping up to be one of the last weekends with nice weather before the fall comes calling.

The more we as fans know, unfortunately, the worse I believe this is going to be. If Fehr and Bettman give long press conferences it means both sides are still negotiating through the media, as opposed to negotiating with one another. If we find out a lot of specific details it means one side or the other is leaking proposals to get some sort of advantage with the fans.

If by Sunday all we know is that the talks are going well and may be extended, then there is still hope that the season begins on October 11, or at least close enough that we don't lose games. On the other hand, if by Sunday we know all the details of the latest proposals then I suggest we all get caught up on that new "Revolution" show or the NBA, because it's going to be while before we get the NHL. For once in my life I'm hoping that I don't learn anything about hockey over the next few days.

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