NHL cancel remainder of the season
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NEW YORK -- The NHL canceled the remainder of the season on Wednesday after a series of last-ditch offers were rejected on the final day of negotiations.
The players have been locked out over a salary cap dispute since the season was scheduled to start in October.
The NHL now becomes the first major professional sports league in North America to lose an entire season to a labor dispute.
Grim-faced NHL commissioner Gary Bettman broke the widely-anticipated bad news at a press conference in New York.
"I have no choice but to cancel the 2004-05 season," he said. "This is a sad, regrettable day that all of us wish could have been avoided."
The league and players' union traded a flurry of proposals and letters Tuesday night, but could never agree on a cap.
The players proposed $49 million per team; the owners said $42.5 million.
"We weren't as close as people were speculating," Bettman said.
This will be the first time the Stanley Cup isn't awarded since 1919 when an influenza epidemic forced the finals to be called off.
Owners had been seeking to impose a salary cap on players, something their union had steadfastly refused to consider since the lockout began last September.
That was until Monday when they said they would be prepared to accept a cap of $52 million per team, which was rejected by the owners.
That figure was lowered to $49 million, while the owners upped their proposal from $40 million to $42.5 million and dropped their demand that payrolls were linked to revenue.
But neither party was willing to budge any further.
"Through the decades and the generations we have faced a variety of crises and challenges -- some of which seemed catastrophic at the time," Bettman said.
"The league persevered through all those adversities and the league will persevere through this one, as well -- to emerge with a framework for the future, one that is fair to everyone -- where our players are fairly paid, receiving what we can afford.
"No more, no less."
Saying they have lost $1.8 billion over the last decade and close to $500 million in the last two years, NHL owners have demanded "cost certainty" in any new deal in a bid to gain control of skyrocketing payrolls.
Over the 10-year term of the last collective bargaining agreement players' salaries went from just over $500,000 a season to $1.83 million.
An economic study commissioned by the NHL determined that players got 75 percent of team revenues, the most of any of the four North American professional leagues.
The players union will be holding their own press conference later on Wednesday in Toronto.