NEW YORK – The National Hockey League announced the cancellation of pre-season games through Sept. 30 on Wednesday.
The Kraft Hockeyville pre-season game, scheduled for Oct. 3, in Belleville, Ont. has been postponed as well to the 2013-14 season. Many of the celebrations in the winning community of Stirling-Rawdon will go ahead as planned.
The cancellation is due to the absence of a collective bargaining agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL.
With a number of big-name players continuing to head for Europe, NHL employees were informed Wednesday that their salaries are scheduled to be cut 20 per cent across the board. That will come into effect on Oct. 1, when full-time staff are reduced to a four-day work week.
The news was delivered by commissioner Gary Bettman during a Wednesday morning staff meeting, according to league spokesman Gary Meagher.
Unlike in September 2004, when more than 50 per cent of NHL employees were laid off just days into the lockout, the league is trying to avoid cutting staff. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press over the weekend that there were no immediate plans for layoffs, although multiple sources who attended Wednesday’s meeting said employees were warned that further cuts could be coming in the future.
A number of teams, including the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, announced layoffs earlier this week. The Senators also placed their remaining staff on a reduced work schedule.
“Every full-time, every part-time employee is affected by a work stoppage,” team president Cyril Leeder said Monday.
Bettman and Daly both decided to forgo their salary during the lockout, according to sources. Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, hasn’t been paid since the beginning of July.
As the lockout moved into its fourth day, there were still no formal bargaining sessions scheduled between the league and NHLPA. The sides last sat down together on Sept. 12.
With it becoming clear NHL training camps won’t open as scheduled on Friday, players continued to seek work overseas. On Wednesday, Jason Spezza signed a deal with Rapperswil-Jona in Switzerland, Anze Kopitar agreed to join brother Gasper with Mora in Sweden and Russian stars Alex Ovechkin (Moscow Dynamo) and Pavel Datsyuk (CSKA Moscow) each returned home to play in the KHL.
Rick Nash also arrived in Switzerland, where he’ll again play alongside Joe Thornton with HC Davos, and said that he believes the lockout could last the entire season — just as it did in 2004-05.
“It doesn’t look positive,” Nash told newspaper Sudostschweiz. “It could be a season-long break.”
Even though that remains a long way off, frustration is clearly mounting. Buffalo Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth became the latest player to take to Twitter and blame Bettman for another NHL work stoppage, the fourth in two decades.
So sick of this lockout. Playing in the NHL have been a life long dream and now we can’t bc of GB want more money from us? #imlosingtime
— Jhonas Enroth (@JEnroth125) September 19, 2012
Meanwhile, Montreal owner Geoff Molson said he remains confident a settlement can be reached quickly.
“It is our priority and we hope that an agreement will be concluded soon so that fans can enjoy our new team,” Molson told reporters Wednesday at the Canadiens’ charity golf tournament.
Molson added that he has unwavering support in Gary Bettman and that the league’s owners are firmly behind him.
NHL owners are subject to a $1-million fine for speaking out of line about the lockout.
“For the league to be healthy, for the economic system to be good for all teams, there must be adjustments, as Gary mentioned,” Molson said.
“The 30 owners are standing together and are united and they support Gary’s approach.”