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NHL soon may announce cancellation of Opening Night games

NEW YORK (MCT) – With no progress in negotiations and financial damage already being done by the 17-day owners’ lockout, the NHL could announce as soon as Wednesday it has canceled the scheduled Oct. 11 start to its regular season and a first segment of games.

“It’s something, obviously, we have to focus on in the short term and we’ll make an appropriate decision as the appropriate time,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday after a CBA meeting at the league’s Manhattan offices that lasted fewer than two hours. “We’re still focused on doing what we can to minimize the damage.”

Daly estimated the league has lost “close to $100 million” already by canceling its entire preseason.

NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr didn’t take the time compute or dispute Daly’s estimation. He reminded, however, that it was the owners’ decision to cancel the preseason.

“This is a lockout they decided to have,” Fehr said. “It was a lockout of choice. There was no reason for it. Negotiations could still be ongoing. So, if there is a problem here maybe somebody ought to look in the mirror over there.”

Daly said “no progress was made” in Tuesday’s meeting, which continued a discussion of the definition of hockey-related revenue that began Saturday. Although Fehr spoke with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday afternoon, the sides have yet to schedule their next negotiating session.

NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr said it was possible talks would resume later this week in Toronto. The NHL and NHLPA have discussed the idea of bringing in a federal mediator to help push along the process, but it doesn’t sound like that’s in their plans, yet.

Expect the wording of the league’s announcement on the start of the season to be vague enough that it won’t necessarily mean games are canceled for good – just for the dates on which they were originally scheduled. With the lighter October schedule, the NHL could start the season up to a month late and still play 82 games if it eliminates the all-star break and adds on a couple of weeks in April.

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