NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says it looks like a full-82 game schedule ‘‘is not going to be a reality,’’ as the lockout nears its seventh week.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in New York, Bettman seemed resigned to looking at a shortened season with the NHL and the players’ association still at odds after months of negotiations.
Bettman stated, in making the NHL’s most recent offer, that a deal needed to be in place by Thursday for the season to begin on Nov. 2 and allow for each team to play a full 82-game slate. With no negotiations scheduled, reaching a deal in one day appears very unlikely.
‘‘There are just sometimes that you need to take time off because it’s clear that you can’t do anything to move the process forward,’’ Bettman said. ‘‘We’re at one of those points right now because we gave our very best offer. That offer, for better or for worse, was contingent on playing an 82-game season. So I think things actually in some respects may get more difficult.’’
The players’ association reached out to the NHL Tuesday night in an attempt to set up a face-to-face bargaining session Wednesday, but the league declined. The NHL’s position is if the union isn’t willing to talk about the league’s offer that is on the table and isn’t prepared to make a new proposal of its own based on that offer, there is no reason to talk.
‘‘There seems to be no interest in making any sort of deal along the lines of what we have expressed a desire and a need for,’’ Bettman said. ‘‘Sometimes in collective bargaining you have to take a deep breath before you can move forward.’’
The union wants anything and everything open for discussion. Bettman wouldn’t agree to those terms, so the hockey season remains in peril.
A partial season is still a possibility, and the NHL hasn’t called off any marquee events such as the outdoor Winter Classic on New Year’s Day or the All-Star Game.
‘‘I would rather play a full season, and I am sure our fans would rather we play a full season,’’ Bettman said. ‘‘That’s why we made the offer we did. That was our fourth offer against really one offer from the union in all the time that we've been negotiating from the summer. We very much want to play and we’re very disappointed that we’re not.’’
Unlike many people in hockey, John Davidson wasn’t afraid of the losing tradition of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
‘‘I like the idea of the challenge. I mean, it’s possible. In fact, it’s something we’re going to do,’’ Davidson said after being hired as the Blue Jackets’ new president of hockey operations.
The ex-player, Hall of Fame broadcaster, and St. Louis Blues president believes he can transform a franchise with just one, brief trip to the postseason into a Stanley Cup contender.
‘‘The hardest part is to go through the ups and downs of getting a club to get back on its feet and going in the right direction,’’ he said. ‘‘But if you have the right mentality, where your players understand how hard they have to work, we'll do well.’’
Davidson will take over a new position. The former president, Mike Priest, will now concentrate only on the business side of a team that had the worst record in the NHL last season (29-46-7, 65 points).
The 59-year-old Davidson was president of the Blues for the past seven years. He left when new owner Tom Stillman bought out his contract in an effort to cut costs.