Uncertainty over upcoming negotiations on a new NHL collective bargaining agreement has forced the cancellation of the Young Stars prospects tournament in Penticton.
Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman confirmed in an email to The Province on Wednesday afternoon that the Canucks won’t participate in the highly successful tournament and that the event will not be held.
“We will not participate in the Young Stars tournament this fall. However, we will hold our annual summer development camp,” Gilman wrote. He added: “There will be no tournament this fall.”
Obviously, if the host club is pulling out, teams such as the Oilers, Flames, Jets, and Sharks — whose prospects attended last year — won’t be there either. Last year, the tourney ran Sept. 11-15.
Another, higher-profile prospects tourney, hosted by Detroit in Traverse City, Mich., was reported to be on hold with a decision to be made later in the summer.
The current collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and its players’ union, the NHLPA, expires on Sept. 15 and there has been no dialogue between the two sides so far.
If the season were to be delayed — or cancelled altogether, as it was in 2004-2005 — holding such a camp would be poor use of time and money. As well, booking the arena for the five days of the tournament and the 260 to 300 hotel rooms needed requires commitments months ahead.
On Wednesday morning, the NHL gave the Players Association the required 120 days written notice of its intention to terminate or modify the current CBA. This was a routine move to avoid the current CBA from simply rolling over on Sept. 15, but clearly the labour uncertainty is beginning to have more impact on the league’s operations.
Already, on March 14, the NHL said its season-opening European-venue games would not be held for the first time since 2007.
Dean Clarke, general manager of tournament venue South Okanagan Events Centre, said the cancellation was disappointing. Besides boosting the city’s economy, it also showcased bright young talent last September such as Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, Calgary’s Sven Baertschi and Vancouver’s Nicklas Jensen.
“It’s too bad we weren’t able to host it this year, but we’re looking forward to hosting it next year and years to come,” said Clarke.
“It’s something we’ve had for two years and I think the NHL teams would say it meets a lot of their needs and it certainly impacts our community in a positive manner. It’s been a win-win. When we’re able, we’ll begin the process of having them back for 2013.”