Barring a substantial move by the league or the players association, the NHL is expected to cancel the Winter Classic today as the lockout hits its 48th day.
The move has been speculated for weeks, pegged partly to logistics. The league's payment plan for using Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, where the Red Wings were scheduled to play the Maple Leafs on Jan. 1, calls for $250,000 to be paid to the school today. Also, production for HBO's version of its 24/7 reality series chronicling the event and its buildup usually begins in early November.
Union lawyer Steve Fehr and deputy commissioner Bill Daly spoke by phone Thursday. The sides have not formally negotiated since Oct. 18, and no future sessions had been scheduled. The players' negotiating committee and executive board, and other interested players, held another conference call for updates.
The core issue remains splitting league revenue. Both agree the revenue split will be 50-50. But the league wants it implemented immediately, and the players, who last season received 57 percent, prefer it to be gradually phased in. Players also want existing contracts honored.
Players have said they are ready to meet any time to discuss anything. The league has said it will meet only if the players have a new proposal or will work off the one it presented Oct. 16.
"We want to get a deal done, but it's very, very frustrating," said Lightning wing B.J. Crombeen, a negotiating committee member. "What's just as frustrating as that is them telling the fans they want the game back, they're working as hard as they can, but they won't even meet with us. They won't even talk with us on anything."
Federal mediator George H. Cohen, who was involved in last year's NFL and NBA lockout negotiations, told ESPN.com that he had been in contact with both sides in the NHL labor situation but would not give details. Daly confirmed that but said Cohen had not been in negotiations because neither side believed that was necessary yet.
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.