By Rick Carpiniello
So much for the Rangers needing to start the season with eight games on the road due to Madison Square Garden’s renovations.
The first five of those games were, not surprisingly, among the 82 games canceled by the NHL on Thursday due to the league’s lockout of its players.
Gone from the original schedule are Rangers games in Los Angeles (Oct. 12), San Jose (Oct. 15), New Jersey (Oct. 17), Buffalo (Oct. 19) and Tampa Bay (Oct. 23).
However, in the event of a new collective bargaining agreement being reached, the NHL schedule wouldn’t necessarily – and probably wouldn’t – simply begin at that point. Indeed, once there is a settlement, or if, the NHL would most certainly reconfigure the entire 2012-13 schedule in an attempt to squeeze in as many games as possible.
But the fact remains that the Garden, which was supposed to be ready for habitation with the Nov. 1 game against Dallas, should be open for business earlier in the schedule than originally planned.
According to ESPN.com, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said “if we reach a deal, we will be looking to reconfigure schedule in a way that would maximize season consistent with health and safety concerns for players.”
A later start date might also benefit the Rangers as they await the return of their leading scorer, Marian Gaborik, from shoulder surgery (he was expected back in late November or December) and as newcomer Rick Nash recovers from a bruised shoulder injury he suffered this week while playing in Switzerland.
Donald Fehr, the executive director of the players union, said, “The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners. If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue. A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions. Nevertheless, the players remain committed to playing hockey while the parties work to reach a deal that is fair for both sides. We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner.”