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NHL cancels 2004-05 hockey season
The National Hockey League (NHL) cancelled its season today after being unable to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with its players. Gary Bettman made the official announcement this afternoon in New York. Bettman said, "As I stand before you today it is my sad duty to announce that because the solution has not yet been attained it is no longer practical to conduct even an abbreviated season. I have no choice but to announce the formal cancellation of play for 2004-2005." The league now has the "distinction" of becaming the first North American professional sports league to lose an entire season due to a labour dispute.
There will be a lot of time to analyze this mess but one thing is clear, hockey fans get the shaft.
Two sides come close, NHL tables "final" proposal
Just as the outlook for hockey was looking grimmer than ever, the sides spent numerous hours Monday in Niagara Falls, NY and made some significant progress. The NHL dropped its long standing demand for "linkage" between league reveunes versus player salaries and in somewhat of a bombshell, the NHLPA agreed to a hard cap. Now before you go celebrating, that's as close as they came. The league proposed a salary cap that totaled $42 million (including benefits) while the players countered with a $52 million cap that could increase by 10% for 3 of the 6 years. Now that we have come so far, the average fan might say "we seem to have come further than expected - why don't we settle for a $46 million hard cap with the ability to go over by 5% for 3 of the 6 years?" But alas, things aren't that cut and dry. The two sides could not come to an agreement and today, the NHL made its "final offer". The league bumped its ''final offer'' Tuesday to a $42.5-million salary cap plus $2.2 in benefits.
Outlook Grim for NHL season
After their last ditch effort to get something worked out last week, both sides seem convinced that the end is near. Atleast that is what we are hearing and unless there is are some ultra-secretive talks taking place. Last week's talks saw the NHL propose a deal that combined their last proposal with the player's December 9th offer - all be with a few caveats. The NHLPA rejected this outright and did not table a counter-proposal. Many reports indicate that this meeting in Toronto was one of the least productive, with NHL chief legal counsel Bill Daley describing it as "pointless
". For its part the player's association weren't too pleased with the offer, especially the trigger points that would introduce hard salary caps.
Motor City Madness
Red Wings defencemen Chris Chelios and Derian Hatcher along with forward Kris Draper are about to join the Motor City Mechanics of the United Hockey League. The news comes as negotiations between the NHL and the players association reach a critical point. The three Red Wings may even by joined by Kirk Maltby, who last played during the World Cup/Canada Cup last fall. With over 300 NHL players playing in other leagues (mostly in Europe), this latest move into the UHL has raised the ire of some hockey players and commentators. Kevin Kerr of the Flint Generals is the leading career goal scorer in the minor leagues and finds this action by highly paid National Hockey League players taking away jobs from minor leaguers, very hypocritical.