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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 23:12 GMT
NHL lockout cancels All-Star game
Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers
The earliest Atlanta can now host the All-Star weekend is 2008

The National Hockey League lockout has forced the cancellation of this season's All-Star game, which was due to be held in Atlanta in February.

Wednesday's announcement came on the 49th day of the lockout, imposed by commissioner Gary Bettman after the collective bargaining agreement expired on 15 September.

No regular games have been played since the season's scheduled 13 October beginning, and NHL arenas have been given the go-ahead to release dates on a 45-day rolling basis.

But with the All-Star game now off, the next announcement could be the cancellation of the entire season.

The NHL and the players association, at issue over the club owners' demand for a salary cap, haven't met since 9 September and have no plans to retsume negotiations.

The lockout during the 1994-95 season also forced the cancellation of the All-Star game. An agreement was reached in January 1995, and each team played a 48-game schedule.

Atlanta has now been deprived of their third All-Star game in five years, after hosting the Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association events.

In a statement, the NHL said the earliest Atlanta can hold All-Star weekend is 2008, since the 2006 game has already been awarded to the Phoenix Coyotes and plans for the 2007 game are near completion.

"We apologize to the fans, the City of Atlanta, the Thrashers and to all those who have already devoted so much effort to planning this important hockey celebration," said Frank Supovitz, vice-president of NHL events and entertainment.

"We will reschedule All-Star weekend for Atlanta as soon as possible and will do everything we can to reward everyone's patient support."

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