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Insider

The dangers of a condensed schedule

10/4/2012

The wording was vague enough to leave a sliver of hope. The NHL announced the cancellation of regular-season games this season through Oct. 24, stating that a total of 82 regular-season games were scheduled during that time period.

The league didn't say they were permanently wiped out, just that they were on the schedule.

In an email to ESPN.com, deputy commissioner Bill Daly kept all options open.

"Certainly fair to say that if we reach a deal, we will be looking to reconfigure [the] schedule in a way that would maximize [the] season consistent with health and safety concerns for the Players," Daly wrote Thursday afternoon.

Last year, the NBA started on Christmas Day and crammed in a condensed schedule to make up for games lost during its lockout. Would the NHL follow suit?

One NBA source suggested that hockey should consider that option carefully, because he wasn't thrilled with how the condensed NBA schedule played out last season.

"In retrospect, I really think that was a mistake," he said. "Players -- there were more injuries. It worked out financially. It really worked out financially ... but the game suffered."

Poll NHL players and you would likely get a wide range of opinions. A young team such as the Edmonton Oilers might be more than happy to cram in extra games. They have enough youth and energy where they might be able to capitalize on it.

Veterans and those with families might not think the financial advantage is worth it to play a condensed schedule. It makes for grueling travel, and there are serious health risks in a sport as physically demanding as hockey. A safety issue, such as concussions, where symptoms are sometimes delayed, would be magnified in a condensed schedule.

"You're going to find people all over the board," said one NHL agent Thursday afternoon. "If it meant full salaries, some guys who are in good health and you are going to say, 'Yeah, what the hell?'"

The agent pointed out that a condensed season may end up being a negotiating card for the NHL to play at the table -- assuming talks start back up at some point.

It's possible the owners bend a little on the division of revenue during the first year, but only if the players agree to play a full schedule.

"The curious part of this is the precision in which these guys are lopping off games. It's just so scripted," said the agent. "When does the NHL ownership realize that, instead of fracturing the union, they're actually solidifying the guys?"