Hopes that the NHL would end its contract dispute in time to salvage a complete season dwindled Wednesday after the league and players couldn’t even agree to meet.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said a new collective bargaining agreement would need to be hammered out by Thursday if the league was to schedule a full campaign of 82 regular-season games for each team, plus the Stanley Cup playoffs.
No meetings were planned on Wednesday, a day after players union officials said the league rejected an offer to talk.
“They have made it clear to us that they have very little interest in the proposal we made last Tuesday,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com on Tuesday night. “They also told us they have no intention of making a new proposal. I’m not sure what we would be meeting about.”
The league has pointed to Thursday as the deadline to get a deal done because that would allow a week of training camps before the start of the season on November 2.
Bettman has indicated November 2 would be the last possible start date that could provide for a complete season, now that games scheduled for October 11-November 1 have already been scrapped.
Talks on a new collective bargaining agreement have been stalled for months largely over how to divide $3.2 billion in hockey-related revenues, and owners locked out players on September 15.
Players had received 57 percent under the old deal.
Owners had asked for at least 53 percent under a new agreement, but last week had offered a deal including a 50-50 split.
The league was unhappy with the players’ response, with Bettman saying none of the players counter-proposals “even began to approach 50-50″.
Players union chief Don Fehr countered that NHL proposal still represented huge reductions in player salaries.
The NHL lost its entire 2004-05 season to a similar dispute.