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TORONTO – What the puck?
A nation of ice hockey addicts saw the National Hockey League at midnight Saturday lock out its players with barely a whimper.
The expiration of the pro league’s collective agreement with the NHL Players’ Association means Canada will see no TV pro hockey games in the short term, and possibly even after the 2012-13 season gets underway as planned on October 11.
The league and its players did not bargain in the run-up to the September 16 deadline for a new labor deal.
Instead, NHL players have already started flying to Europe to play in pro leagues in Russia, Switzerland and Scandinavia.
And the NHL didn’t comment on the labor action until Sunday morning, and only then to indicate it remained “committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the players and to the 30 NHL teams.”
Canadian TV hockey fans reacted more with sadness than shock after the failure by the league and its players to reach a new labor deal.
“This lockout is bogus. Maybe the NHL and the NHLPA brass have something to learn from other leagues? who don’t have as many disputes?” Glee‘s Cory Monteith, who hails from Canada, said on his Twitter account.
“NHL lockout is now in its 8th hour. Is it time to panic? Should we turn to cannibalism?” Steve Faguy, a Canadian media critic with the Montreal Gazette, added with his own tweet.
The league and the players remain far apart on how to divide up around $3.3 billion in annual revenue.
The lockout is also the fourth work stoppage in the last two decades, with the last coming in 2005.
Also disrupted by the NHL lockout is NBCUniversal’s NBC Sports Group, which last year signed a ten-year TV deal with the pro hockey league, not least to increase the number of games on Versus.
“This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room,” the NHL added in its statement Sunday.
“The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible,” the league added.
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