NHL ANNOUNCES CANCELLATION OF 2004-05 SEASON
NEW YORK (February 16, 2005) - The National Hockey League announced today that, because a new collective bargaining agreement has not been realized, it no longer is practical to conduct an abbreviated 2004-05 season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman issued the following statement:
"Every professional sports League owes its very existence to its fans. Everyone associated with the National Hockey League owes our fans an apology for being unable to accomplish what is necessary for our game and our fans. We are truly sorry.
"Five months ago, I stated that the National Hockey League could not function without an economic system that will bring our League into the 21st Century. I said that our 30 Clubs were united in their dedication to an economic system under which the teams and players, sharing common objectives and a commitment to our fans' satisfaction, would work together as partners.
"The time since then has been devoted to the pursuit of that goal. Today, I can tell you that our determination remains every bit as strong as it was in September to secure the partnership required to protect and ensure the future of the League ... for the benefit of the Clubs, the Players, and our devoted fans.
"When I stood before you in September, I said NHL teams would not play again until our economic problems had been solved. As I stand before you today, it is my sad duty to announce that because that solution has not yet been attained, it no longer is practical to conduct even an abbreviated season. Accordingly, I have no choice but to announce the formal cancellation of play for 2004-05.
"We profoundly regret the suffering this has caused our fans, our business partners and the thousands of people who depend on our industry for their livelihoods. We will continue to explore and pursue all available options in order to achieve a successful resolution to this dispute and to get the best game in the world back where it belongs -- on the ice, in front of the best fans in the world.
"As I also said in September, what we must do now is not about the present or the short-term needs of this season. Rather, it is about the future of our League and 30 teams.
"The National Hockey League was formed in 1917, and it has played a season through to a championship in every year but 1919. Through the decades and the generations we have faced a variety of crises and challenges -- some of which seemed catastrophic at the time. 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.
"This is a sad, regrettable day that all of us wish could have been avoided.