(Reuters) - The National Hockey League (NHL) on Friday cancelled all regular-season games scheduled up to November 30 because of the ongoing labor dispute with players and the absence of a new collective bargaining agreement.
The regular-season was originally set to start on October 11 and a week ago the league scrapped all games up until November 1 because of the lockout, raising the prospect that the entire season could be lost.
“The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a brief statement.
”By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA (players’ union) that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term collective bargaining agreement that would have preserved an 82-game regular season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.
“We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the players and the clubs -- one that will be good for the game and our fans.”
A total of 326 regular-season games - 26.5 percent of the season - had been scheduled for October 11 through November 30.
The decision to cancel all games through November came a day after the October 25 deadline set by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for an agreement to be reached in the hopes of playing a full season.
However, the two sides did not meet on Thursday and the league’s most recent offer, that included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, was rejected by the union.
The players responded with three counter-offers, all of which were swiftly dismissed by the league.
“This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said in a statement.
”But it comes as no surprise ... we have repeatedly advised the owners that the players are prepared to sit down and negotiate on any day, with no pre-conditions. The owners refused.
”They apparently are only interested in meeting if we first agree to everything in their last offer, except for perhaps a few minor tweaks ...
“They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate. We hope they return to the table in order to get the players back on the ice soon.”
The lockout was imposed last month after team owners and players were unable to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement with both sides at odds over how to split $3.3 billion in revenue.
It is the fifth time in 20 years that the NHL has been stopped because of labor dispute. The last was in 2004-05, when the entire season was canceled.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Simon Evans