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NHL cancels September games; Blackhawks voice displeasure

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Updated: October 21, 2012 3:02PM

It’s not so much that players — or even most fans, for that matter — want a long preseason schedule. It’s that the NHL’s cancellation Wednesday of preseason games through Sept. 30 could be a precursor to what has everyone worried.

If the NHL Players Association and the league don’t make progress soon, more cancellations might be around the corner.

“It would be one thing to say, get the door locked, get it done and come out with both sides being happy,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said Wednesday at Johnny’s IceHouse West. “But it’s just not realistic right now.”

Wednesday was the fourth consecutive day without formal talks since the lockout began. Jonathan Toews said he can feel and see the fans’ disappointment.

“People in Chicago and in Canada really understand the history of what’s gone on in the last 20 years, probably the last 18 or so, since Gary Bettman has been the commissioner of our league and the repetitiveness of these situations,” said Toews, wearing an NHLPA cap.

“People here in Chicago are even more disappointed. You look at the last five years and how great hockey has been in this city and how much energy it’s brought to this city, especially at the United Center, all over downtown and all over Chicagoland. People are scared that we’re going to miss the season, that we’re not going to see hockey.

“Even if it’s an 80-game season and not an 82-game season, it’s disappointing. There’s no reason that it should go to that point. I think it’s been a negotiating tactic all along from the league’s standpoint to wait this long. From a players’ standpoint, we’ve made it clear that we would play under the former CBA, so there’s been more than enough effort from the players to find an agreement. It’s almost embarrassing that it’s already gone this far.”

Players insist they’re ready for it to go even farther.

They adamantly stand by NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and their proposal. There’s even some anger behind their words now. Toews isn’t the only player to sound off recently on the league, Bettman or the owners.

“We’re just asking the owners to honor the contracts that they have previously signed,” said Washington Capitals forward Troy Brouwer, who’s in Chicago.

“We’re willing to help out,” Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said. “I just don’t think all the burden should lie on our shoulders all the time.”

The Hawks have only two preseason games left after the cancellations: Oct. 5 at Pittsburgh and Oct. 6 against the Flyers. They were scheduled to open training camp Friday, with their first preseason game Tuesday in Philadelphia. Two games against the Red Wings (Sept. 28 and 29) and a game against the Penguins (Sept. 30) also were lost.

The cancelled games, though, weren’t needed for Toews, Kane and others to feel the reality of the NHL’s third lockout under Bettman.

“It’s starting to hit home right now [at Johnny’s], just that fact we’re here and we can’t even get into our own locker room,” Toews said. “It is a bit weird. It’s going to sink in more and more as we go along.”

NOTES: Daniel Carcillo (torn anterior cruciate ligament) said “everything feels good” with his left knee. He might be cleared by the Hawks’ doctors in a couple weeks, making him ineligible to be paid during the lockout.

Patrick Kane confirmed he’s open to playing in Europe but is in no rush to make a decision.

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