NEW YORK — The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule Monday, 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 Friday, and the latest cuts on Day 86 of the NHL lockout 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.
Yet the cancellation of just two more weeks of the season could 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 Monday in an email to the AP that nothing had been completed regarding a meeting with the union.
When the sides 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 was the number of games played during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.
The 1995 lockout ended Jan. 11. The season began nine days later and lasted until May 3.
Depending on who was asked last week, the message was either the sides were close to a deal or nowhere near one.
Players' association executive director Donald Fehr said Thursday night, after three straight days of negotiations, that he believed an agreement was close, only to change his position moments later when the NHL rejected the union's most recent offer.
Bettman disagreed that a deal was near, then angrily announced the league was rescinding every offer it had put on the table since the start of negotiations.
"I would say it was expected," New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron, the team's union representative, said about the lost games Monday in an email to the AP. "We continue to stand behind Don 100 percent and the work our negotiating committee is doing and working hard to get a deal done."
Neither Fehr nor his brother Steve, the union's special counsel, had a comment following the NHL announcement on Monday.
The 2004-05 lockout, that eventually produced an NHL salary cap for the first time, was the first labor dispute to totally cancel a season in North American professional sports.