x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

NHL: Pre-season matches axed as lockout starts to take effect

60 games from the first week of pre-season in the National Hockey League, due to start this weekend, have been scrapped as the stalemate between players and owners continues.

An NHL badge seen on a goal at Nashville's practice rink - not currently in use because of the lockout.
An NHL badge seen on a goal at Nashville's practice rink - not currently in use because of the lockout.

The National Hockey League's lockout claimed its first casualties of the season last night as the opening week of pre-season fixtures was scrapped.

The stalemate in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement between players and teams means that 60 games, due to be played in pre-season between September 23 and September 30, have now been dropped.

The league confirmed in a statement last night that the first week of fixtures had been cancelled.

The matches called off include the 2012 Kraft Hockeyville pre-season game at Belleville, Ontario, on October 3 which has now been put back until 2013.

The cancellations come amid unconfirmed reports that the NHL will cut employee salaries by 20 per cent and institute a four-day work week starting Oct. 1.

At the same time, the flood of players rushing to find work in European leagues is expected to grow with no end in site to the work stoppage.

Reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Evgeni Malkin and former scoring champion and MVP Alex Ovechkin head the list of big-name NHL players who have already signed deals to play in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

New Jersey Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk and Detroit Red Wings centre Pavel Datsyuk also returned home to Russia while Rick Nash of the New York Rangers and Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators were among those opting for the Swiss league.

A league-wide lockout was imposed by the NHL on the weekend when the previous labour agreement expired with the owners and players at odds over how to divide a $3.3 billion revenue pie.

There have been no formal talks between NHL owners and the union representing its players since last Wednesday, leaving the scheduled Oct. 11 start of the 2012-13 season in doubt.

The work stoppage is the first in the NHL since a lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 campaign, and the upcoming season could see the same fate as the two sides remain at a stalemate over key economic issues.

The NHL, which enjoyed record-breaking revenues last season, is looking to cut the players' share in revenue while players are against taking an immediate, absolute salary reduction.