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“It’s a sad situation for everybody. Nobody wants to be in this spot,” Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We couldn’t agree on a deal. We see it one way, and the owners another way unfortunately.”

One sign of the split: The NHL’s website went from featuring current players to remembering great moments in the sport, such as the 1987 Canada Cup.

While the NHL lockout might not wipe out the whole season as the one in 2004-05 did, a sizeable chunk of games could be lost without productive talks soon.

In jeopardy are a couple of key dates on the calendar: the New Year’s Day outdoor Winter Classic at 115,000-seat Michigan Stadium between the host Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs; and the Jan. 27 All-Star game hosted by the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the league’s struggling small-market teams.

The sides traded proposals Wednesday, but neither new offer moved them closer to a deal. The lack of progress then made a lockout almost inevitable.

“I think it’s fair to say there was no realistic expectation to avoid lockout as of developments on Wednesday and Thursday,” Daly told The Associated Press.

Bettman has insisted that hockey management is determined to come away with economic gains, even at the cost of another work stoppage. Financial damage is certain to occur almost immediately, and there is no telling how jilted fans and sponsors will react to another shutdown, especially if it lasts through the fall and into the winter.

Players are concerned management hasn’t addressed the league’s financial problems by re-examining the teams’ revenue-sharing formula. Having made several big concessions to reach a deal in 2005, the union doesn’t think it should have to make more this time after record financial growth.

Once the lockout was imposed in September 2004, the sides didn’t get back together until December. That stalemate was finally resolved in July 2005.

Players absorbed a salary-cap system _ the major issue then _ and took an immediate 24 percent rollback of existing contracts in exchange for 57 percent of hockey-related revenues. The NHL now says that figure is too high, and wants to reduce players’ share to a range between 49 percent and 47 percent.

Its original offer was to cut it to 43 percent.

Bettman said the league’s latest offer would be pulled off the table once the current CBA expired because the hardship caused by a lockout would force the NHL to reassess what it could then offer.

Without a philosophical difference this time over the salary cap, the sides merely have to figure out a way to divide hockey revenues that grew from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion under the expiring deal.

On Friday, the Quebec labor relations board rejected a request from the players’ association for a temporary injunction against a potential lockout in Quebec. But the board also ruled that more hearings are needed to make a final decision.

NHL players struck in April 1992, causing 30 games to be postponed. This marks the third lockout under Bettman. The 1994-95 lockout ended after 103 days and the cancellation of 468 games.

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