To the surprise of no one, the NHL cancelled the second half of the 2012 preseason schedule Thursday, citing the fact that there is no collective bargaining agreement currently in place between the league and the players.
Of course, that is because the last CBA expired on Sept. 15, at which point the NHL locked out its players in an ongoing dispute over how to divide the spoils of a $3.3-billion (U.S.) industry.
Talks between the two sides on non-core economic issues are supposed to begin Friday in New York and theoretically are scheduled to last for three days.
But since the pivotal difference between the two sides is largely financial, it is unclear what, if any, traction they might find in this new round of negotiations while focusing on matters such as contract terms, arbitration and free agency.
The NHL’s press release was a terse two-paragraph statement, which is in keeping with its strategy of saying little in public that might compromise its negotiating position.
The NHL’s exhibition season is seen as a money-maker for owners, since players receive only a per diem for participating in training camps, but teams generally charge full price for tickets during the preseason.
The regular season is scheduled to start on Oct. 11 and leverage in the negotiations may shift at that point, because that’s when players start to draw their salaries. The good news, for any players experiencing cash-flow issues, is that the monies withheld in escrow last season will be returned to the players in October.
In the meantime, some 70 locked-out NHLers have found jobs in Europe, while others, with limited seniority, will report to American Hockey League training camps, starting Friday.