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NHL commissioner Bettman warns of possible tougher talks ahead

Published: Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 10:01 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — NEW YORK — The NHL’s chances of playing a full regular season in 2012-13 are about to go down the drain and commissioner Gary Bettman warned the road to settling the owners’ lockout might soon get rougher.

Bettman reiterated Wednesday that a deal would have to be reached on Thursday to fit in a one-week training camp and start the regular season Nov. 2. Although many have speculated there might be wiggle room beyond Nov. 2 to fit in 82 games, Bettman stated firmly that if play doesn’t start by then, there is no chance of playing a full regular season.

“If we go past Nov. 2, we cannot play an 82-game season,” Bettman said after the news conference at Barclays Center to announce the Islanders will move to Brooklyn beginning in 2015-16.

The NHL already has canceled the schedule through Nov. 1. An announcement of the cancellation of a larger chunk of games likely will come in the next two days. The Jan. 1 Winter Classic outdoor game at Michigan Stadium and the All-Star Game in Columbus also are in jeopardy.

There are no future negotiating sessions scheduled and Bettman suggested it might be prudent to take a step back and “have patience.” Although the NHL Players’ Association asked the league Tuesday evening to meet Wednesday or any other day this week, Bettman said there was no point because the players are not willing to offer anything different from their three proposals submitted Thursday or to negotiate off the proposal the NHL submitted last Tuesday.

“We said to them that we are prepared to meet if you want to discuss our offer or if you want to make a new offer,” Bettman said. “They have no inclination on doing either and so there really was no point in meeting at this point. … The fact of the matter is there’s 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.”

The NHL’s latest proposal included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue for a six-year term (plus a one-year mutual option) and a “make whole” provision that would defer some of the money on existing contracts and pay it out during the length of those deals. The NHLPA view the “make whole” provision as players paying players instead of owners paying players and have rejected the idea.

“That offer, for better or for worse, was contingent on playing an 82-game season, so I think things in some respects may get more difficult,” Bettman said.

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