NHL lockout takes center stage

Associated Press

New York

The chance of averting another NHL lockout all but disappeared long before midnight.

With only a few hours left before NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made good on his vow to shut down the league Saturday night without a new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association, there were no signs either side would budge and return to the negotiating table.

A lockout had become such a foregone conclusion, that an NHL spokesman said the league wouldn’t even make an official announcement at midnight that a work stoppage was in effect. The clock itself would be the confirmation.

“We talked with the union this morning, and in light of the fact that they have nothing new to offer, or any substantive response to our last proposal, there would be nothing gained by convening a bargaining session at this time,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement Saturday. “I’m sure that we will remain in contact in the coming days.”

Barring a sudden change of heart, this will be the league’s fourth work stoppage since 1992. This latest action adds to a landscape of labor unrest across American professional sports. The lockout will be the third to hit a major sports league in 18 months, following ones in the NFL and the NBA.

Despite a third straight day of telephone discussions between Daly and players’ association special counsel Steve Fehr, the brother of NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, hopes of face-to-face talks were dashed early Saturday.

“We suggested that the parties meet in advance of the owners’ self-imposed deadline of midnight tonight,” Steve Fehr said Saturday in an emailed statement to the AP. “Don Fehr, myself and several players on the Negotiating Committee were in the City and prepared to meet. The NHL said that it saw no purpose in having a formal meeting.

“There have been and continue to be private, informal discussions between representatives of both sides.”

For nearly a year, Bettman has said he would lock out players when the current CBA expires. It now appears unlikely that training camps will open next week.

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