BY GEORGE RICHARDS
The Panthers planned to raise their first banner to commemorate an on-ice achievement since their Miami Arena days on Oct. 13.
The pregame party to celebrate the Panthers' first Southeast Division championship is now officially on ice.
The National Hockey League locked out their players on Sept. 16 and canceled the first two weeks of the 2012-13 season on Thursday afternoon.
Florida was scheduled to open against the rival Lightning on Oct. 13. The Panthers also lost a home game against the Islanders (Oct. 18) as well as road games against the Islanders, Capitals and Lightning.
This is the third week of the lockout; Florida's preseason schedule was supposed to wrap up with a home game against the Lightning on Saturday.
Although the NHL and its teams say the cancellations were "necessary because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL," the players' association boss contradicted that in a statement released Thursday.
Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA, reiterated that the union offered to work under the old pact as negotiations went on.
The NHL said rejected that earlier this summer and stood by its stance that if (and when) the CBA expired, the players would be locked out.
“The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners,'' Fehr said in the statement. "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. .-.-. 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.”
The Panthers next scheduled game is for Oct. 25 at Minnesota. The home opener is now scheduled for Oct. 29 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.