NEW YORK - The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule yesterday, and if a deal with the players' association isn't reached soon the whole season could be lost.
The league wiped out all games through Dec. 30 in its latest round of cancellations.
Already, 422 regular-season games had been called off through Dec. 14 because of the lockout, and the latest cuts on Day 86 of the NHL shutdown claimed 104 more. The New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Game were canceled earlier. In all, the 526 lost games account for nearly 43 percent of the regular season that was scheduled to begin Oct. 11.
The cancellation of just two more weeks of the season, however, could perhaps signal hope of a deal to begin play in early January. Negotiations between the league and the players' association broke off last week, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday the sides are trying to restart talks this week.
Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press yesterday that nothing had been completed regarding a meeting with the union.
Whenever the sides do get back together, they will need to work quickly on a new collective bargaining agreement. Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week, after the most recent round of negotiations, that a season must consist of at least 48 games to protect its integrity. That's the same number of games played during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.
"When it gets to the point where we can't play a season with integrity, with a representative schedule, then we'll be done," Bettman said on Thursday. "If you go back in history, in '94-95 I think we played 48 games. I can't imagine wanting to play fewer than that."
The NHL and the players are trying to avoid the loss of a full season for the second time in eight years. The 2004-05 lockout, that eventually produced a salary cap for the first time in league history, was the first labor dispute to force a totally canceled season in North American professional sports.
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