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Bettman: 82-game season looks unlikely

by Dan Rosen

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday that an 82-game regular season is unlikely now because a Collective Bargaining Agreement is not yet in place.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the New York Islanders' move to Brooklyn starting with the 2015-16 season, Commissioner Bettman said the National Hockey League Players' Association has opted not to negotiate off the League's latest proposal, which was tabled eight days ago in Toronto and called for a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue and would have allowed a full regular season to begin Nov. 2.

Commissioner Bettman said last week in Toronto that if a deal could be in place by Oct. 25, teams would be able to have a one-week training camp prior to the season opening Nov. 2.

The NHL and the NHLPA have not held a negotiating session since last Thursday and there are none scheduled.

"Obviously as you know we made an offer to the Union last week to share revenues 50-50 and to deal with the so-called 'make whole' provision that was contingent on playing an 82-game season, which we believe [would require that we] drop the puck Nov. 2, which would necessitate making a deal by [Thursday]," Commissioner Bettman said. "The Union has chosen not to engage on our proposal or to make a new proposal of their own, so unfortunately it looks like an 82-game season is not going to be a reality.

"Things seem to be not progressing the way we would like. It's disappointing."

Commissioner Bettman said the League told the leaders of the Union it would be amenable to another negotiating meeting provided the NHLPA was willing to negotiate off the NHL's latest offer or if the union was prepared to table its own new offer.

"They have no inclination on doing either and so there really was no point in meeting at this point," Commissioner Bettman said. "There are just some times where you need to take time off because it's clear that you can't do anything to move the process forward and we're at one of those points right now because we gave our very best offer. And, that offer, for better or for worse, was contingent on playing an 82-game season. So, I think things actually in some respects may get more difficult."

In a statement, NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr referred to the three proposals the NHLPA offered the NHL last Thursday in Toronto and said the Union is prepared to meet.

"The players made multiple core-economic proposals on Thursday that were a significant move in the owners' direction," Fehr 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. At the same time they are refusing to meet, they are winding the clock down to yet another artificial deadline they created."

Nevertheless, Commissioner Bettman said he remains optimistic that something will get done and indicated that playing an abbreviated season is an option, though clearly not what the NHL wants.

"If we go past Nov. 2 we can not play an 82-game season," Commissioner Bettman said. "Sure you can play an abbreviated season; I'd rather play a full season and I'm sure our fans would rather we play a full season. That's why we made the offer we did.

"We very much want to play and we're very disappointed that we're not."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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