Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, said the league will have to "rethink and restructure a proposal" in negotiations with the union because the last offer was based on an 82-game schedule.
If a new collective bargaining agreement was in place and the season started on Dec. 1, teams might play a 64-game schedule. In that scenario, teams could play division rivals six times (24 games) and their other conference foes four times (40 games).
In an e-mail to The Inquirer late Thursday night, Daly said the league had "no specific goals" as to how many games would be played. "Our general goal is to reach an agreement as soon as possible and to preserve as much of the regular season as possible," he said.
Asked if hiring a mediator was the next step, Daly said, "Perhaps. We will see."
The sides are at odds over dividing hockey-related revenue. The league has offered a 50/50 split. The players are agreeable to that divide provided they are guaranteed their full salaries without escrow being involved. The owners claim the players' offer was "misrepresented" and will actually give the union 56 to 57 percent of revenues, which reached $3.3 billion last season.
Donald Fehr, executive director of the players union, said the cancellation of more games "comes as no surprise." He said the owners last week "gave us what amounts to a 'take-it-or-leave-it' proposal." Fehr criticized the NHL for not going back to the bargaining table after it dismissed the NHL Players' Association's counteroffers in 10 minutes.
"Since then, we have repeatedly advised the owners that the players are prepared to sit down and negotiate on any day with no preconditions. The owners refused," Fehr said, adding that the "message from the owners seems to be: 'If you don't give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking.' "
In a statement released Friday, Daly said the NHL had made a proposal that offered the NHLPA "a fair division of revenues and was responsive to the player concerns regarding the value of their contracts."
The league still hopes to play the Jan. 1 Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto at Michigan Stadium. Commissioner Gary Bettman last month said a CBA needed to be in place by mid-November to save the event.
The agreement between the NHL and the University of Michigan says the Winter Classic can be canceled up until Jan. 1, the day of the game, if there is a work stoppage. The league would have to pay the university $100,000 of the $3 million stadium rental fee if that happened.
The last time Bettman and the owners locked out the players was in 2004-05, when the entire season was lost.
Now the league has even more leverage because NBC, a subsidiary of Comcast, will pay the NHL $180 million this season even if no games are played. The trade-off is that if no games are played, the NHL would not charge NBC for a year that is added to the back end of the 10-year contract.
Contact Sam Carchidi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.