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NHL to cancel games through Dec. 30

The earliest a shortened NHL season will start is Dec. 31.

The league is set to cancel another 104 regular-season games later this afternoon, according to sources.

In total, the ongoing lockout has seen 526 games wiped away — roughly 43 per cent of the season — along with the Jan. 1 Winter Classic and Jan. 27 all-star game. The entire schedule through Dec. 30 is now off the books.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association appeared to be closing in on a deal last week before negotiations fell apart.

After talks broke down, commissioner Gary Bettman said the league needs to be able to fit in at least 48 games per team to save the season, which means a new collective bargaining agreement likely has to be signed within the next month.

"When it gets to the point where we can't play a season with integrity, with a representative schedule, then we'll be done," said Bettman. "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 became the first North American sports league to cancel an entire season due to a labour dispute in 2004-05. At that time, the NHL and NHLPA negotiated into February and were attempting to reach a deal that would see teams play just 28 games each.

That type of scenario is unlikely to be repeated.

When the NHL staged a 48-game season following the 1994-95 lockout, the CBA was agreed to on Jan. 11 and the puck was dropped on Jan. 20. The regular season ran through May 3 and saw the Stanley Cup awarded on June 24, thanks to sweeps in four of the last seven playoff series.

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