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NHL cancels All-Star game

Columbus events are lockout’s latest casualties

With no end in sight to the lockout, the NHL canceled games through Dec. 14 on Friday, bringing the total number of contests lost to 422, or a third of the 2012-13 season.

This round of cuts also included the elimination of the All-Star Weekend, which was scheduled for Jan. 26 and 27 in Columbus, Ohio. Even if the two sides would reach an agreement that allows for a shortened season, the game would likely be canceled as a compressed schedule is sorted out.

“The reality of losing more regular-season games as well as the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend in Columbus is extremely disappointing,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.

“We feel badly for NHL fans and particularly those in Columbus, and we intend to work closely with the Blue Jackets organization to return the NHL All-Star events to Columbus and their fans as quickly as possible.”

The cancellations came on the 69th day of the lockout, days after the two sides appeared to reach another stalemate in negotiations.

On Wednesday, the NHL rejected the latest proposal from the NHLPA, which based the players’ share of hockey-related revenue on a percentage rather than a guaranteed amount for the first time in this process.

Under the offer, hockey-related revenue would be split 50-50 in the first year of a five-year agreement, but the players requested that owners contribute $393 million for the “make whole” provision that ensures the value of existing contracts, up from the league’s original offer of $211 million.

“On Wednesday, the players presented a comprehensive proposal, once again moving in the owners’ direction in order to get the game back on the ice. The gap that remains on the core economic issues is $182 million,” NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said in a statement.

“On Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is losing $18-20 million per day during the lockout, therefore two more weeks of canceled games far exceeds the current economic gap. It makes the NHL’s announcement of further game cancellations, including the 2013 All-Star Weekend, all the more unnecessary, and disappointing for all hockey fans – especially those in Columbus. The players remain ready to negotiate but we require a willing negotiating partner.”

While the two sides remain in contact, there are no plans to continue negotiations at this point. The league and the players remain far apart in terms of player contracting rights, how to account for a lockout-shortened season and other key issues.

During interviews with a Toronto radio station on Friday, both Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr provided updates on each side’s stance.

“I’ll be the first to admit this process has played out not as we would have hoped. We hate where we are and wish we were in a better place,” Daly said in his interview. “I guess I underestimated the magnitude of the gulf between us on the important issues.”

Since the league dismissed the union’s latest proposal, speculation on whether the NHLPA would consider decertification as a next step has surfaced. The move would dissolve the union and leave the league open to anti-trust lawsuits.

Fehr declined to comment on the possibility.

“We do not talk about what is discussed in private conversations with players,” Fehr said. “We haven’t decertified, we haven’t talked publicly about decertification.”

Meanwhile, Daly said he wasn’t scared of the possibility of the union decertifying, and added that it’s “a time-consuming process that would likely lead to the end of the season.”

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