With NHL labor negotiations stalled, "there does not appear to be any hope of preserving a full 82-game season" by today's deadline, according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday said, "Unfortunately, it looks like an 82-game season is not going to be a reality." He added that he had "no indication as to when the league and union would resume negotiations." Bettman: "We suggested they could talk to us about what we proposed or make an offer of (their) own and they declined to do either." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr last night said, "We are and continue to be ready to meet to discuss how to resolve our remaining differences, with no preconditions. For whatever reason, the owners are not." Bettman "indicated the league's last offer is unlikely to improve the longer the lockout endures." He said, "We made our very best offer, and that offer was contingent upon playing an 82-game season, for better or for worse, so I think things, in some respects, may get more difficult." A source with knowledge of the league's plan said that there is "likely to be a significant round of cancellations by the end of this week if no progress in negotiations is made." The source added that the NHL's "marquee moneymaker, the Winter Classic, is very much in jeopardy" (ESPNNY.com, 10/24). In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi notes if a labor agreement is not reached today, the Winter Classic "would be canceled in November, along with the All-Star Game" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 10/25).
COMING TO A CROSSROADS: The AP's Ira Podell wrote the NHLPA "wants anything and everything open for discussion." Bettman "wouldn't agree to those terms, so the hockey season remains in peril" (AP, 10/24). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in an e-mail wrote, "It's clear we aren't going to have a deal any time soon" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/25). In N.Y., Larry Brooks writes, "Expect the league to reduce its offer to the union to 47-percent of the revenue once the NHL cancels its next bloc of games" (N.Y. POST, 10/25). In Toronto, Kevin McGran writes the NHL "is getting tough" (TORONTO STAR, 10/25). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch writes Bettman "sent a message to the NHLPA Wednesday: Getting a deal done won't get easier" (OTTAWA SUN, 10/25). In N.Y., Jeff Klein wrote under the header, "League Gives Union The Silent Treatment" (NYTIMES.com, 10/24). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle writes while the two sides "didn't speak Wednesday, the farcical war of words over why exactly they weren't meeting continued" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/25). CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty wrote it has "reached the point in these negotiations where nobody can differentiate between the PR spin battle and legitimate attempts to bridge the gap between each side." There is "no trust on either side" (CSNNE.com, 10/24).
PLAYERS HOLDING THEIR LINES: Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen yesterday said, "We want to get something done. But they're not willing to. It's a bully tactic and it's not really negotiating" (TAMPABAY.com, 10/24). Devils G Johan Hedberg said of the league quickly rejecting the union's three counter-proposals, "That's arrogance. That's not healthy. If that's the way they want to operate, I don't know what kind of leadership that is. I think it's disrespectful" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/25). Jets LW Andrew Ladd said, "They're not willing to talk unless we basically accept their proposal, with tweaks and trying to figure out the 'make whole' provision and as that sits, it's not really a great deal for us. There's a lot of things that go backwards for us" (WINNIPEG SUN, 10/25). In Chicago, Adam Jahns writes Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane "and possibly" C Jonathan Toews signing contracts to play overseas "should be unsettling." Kane said, "Hopefully for the owners, for the players and for everyone involved in these negotiations, it does spark some life into the negotiations." Toews: "It still seems like (the owners are) on a timeline, and they're waiting for a certain date to try and push us to the brink and see how much they can squeeze out of us" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/25).
ENTER THE SPIN ROOM: In Toronto, Damien Cox notes with more NHLers heading overseas, it is "likely an indication they are being told by NHLPA boss Donald Fehr not to expect a resolution to this labour spat for weeks." The time spent by both sides on "meaningless, peripheral stuff boggles the mind." This much "seems clear: The minute Gary Bettman said he wanted to start play Nov. 2, you knew the NHLPA would never give him that date" (TORONTO STAR, 10/25). The OTTAWA SUN's Garrioch cites sources as saying that the players "don't believe they've seen the league's best offer and this is all posturing." They "believe the owners never had any intention of doing a deal before the start of November and after the players missed two cheques" (OTTAWA SUN, 10/25). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote, "Tip of the hat to the NHLPA. Tuesday was some kind of PR bonanza for it." The perception to "Joe Fan is that the players are ready to get back to negotiating, and the league is not." But the "PR war won't settle this CBA." LeBrun: "I honestly do not believe Fehr had any intention of trying to hammer out a deal this week in the face of Bettman's Oct. 25 deadline. I think Fehr believes you can still have an 82-game season starting after Nov. 2, and I think his game plan this week, perhaps even next, is to make the NHL sweat it out a bit more" (ESPN.com, 10/24). In Detroit, Gregg Krupa writes Bettman and the owners "continue alienating the players, not to mention the governments and fans" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/25). SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote, "One has to wonder if, in fact, the NHL's frequent apparent missteps might not be blunders at all, but intentional ploys designed to drive the two sides further apart" (SI.com, 10/24).
PLIGHT OF THE HOCKEY FAN: President Obama yesterday said, "I just want to remind the owners and the players: you guys make money because you've got a whole bunch of fans out there who are working really hard. They buy tickets. They're watching on TV. Y'all should be able to figure this out. Get this done" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 10/24). ESPNW's Sarah Spain wrote the "roar from frustrated fans is duller than you'd think." Unlike the NFL and NBA lockouts of last year, social media "isn't buzzing with updates on every tiny detail of the NHL negotiations." Spain: "The problem? We've all been here before" (ESPNW.com, 10/24). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes, "You know what, NHL? Play, don't play, no one cares anymore." In the Raleigh area, the Hurricanes "already have slipped so far off the radar they might as well have moved to Quebec." If and when they do "start playing, they face a long road back" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 10/25).