Pessimism is growing around the NHL's stalled collective bargaining talks.
With no future negotiations scheduled, the league is getting close to another round of game cancellations that will further shorten any potential season. Asked on Thursday if the labour dispute had yet put the entire year in jeopardy, deputy commissioner Bill Daly replied: "I hope not."
"But I'm more discouraged now than I have been at any point in the process," Daly added.
The NHL is expected to start wiping games beyond Nov. 30 off the schedule early next week. There had previously been hope for a shortened 68-game season starting Dec. 1, but that now appears to be gone.
In total, the lockout has already forced the cancellation of 327 games, including the Winter Classic between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. The league's other big mid-season event — the Jan. 27 all-star game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus — is also expected to be formally cancelled in the near future.
Talks between the NHL and NHL Players' Association have fallen silent one week after representatives from both sides met over six consecutive days in New York. They broke off after last Friday's bargaining session ended with a heated exchanged and a meeting on Sunday afternoon lasted barely more than an hour.
Earlier this week, NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr indicated that he thought a new CBA could be completed quickly once a breakthrough was made in negotiations.
It doesn't appear to be forthcoming. Fehr acknowledged that the union and league remained split on three major issues: the division of money, player contract rights and who pays for the damage caused by the lockout.
The lack of progress in talks has started raising fears that the NHL might lose another year to a labour dispute. Even though the 2004-05 season was cancelled by commissioner Gary Bettman on Feb. 16, it's believed the league wouldn't put the decision off that long if the 2012-13 season is to meet the same fate.
A deal that saved a 48-game season after the 1994-95 lockout was signed on Jan. 11.