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The New Year’s clock ticked down while the window to reach a labor agreement to save the season was rapidly closing. Bettman said a deal needs to be reached by Jan. 11.

“We’ve said we need to drop the puck by Jan. 19 if we’re going to play a 48-game season,” the commissioner said. “We don’t think it makes sense to play a season any shorter than that.”

That leaves a little less than two weeks to reach an agreement and hold one week of training camp before starting the season.

So far, a deal has proved elusive and well out of reach.

The league and the union had informational discussions _ by conference call and in meetings _ with staff members that lasted much of Saturday and ended Sunday. Those talks were spurred by the extensive contract proposal the NHL made last week.

All games through Jan. 14 have been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule.

Bargaining sessions with only the NHL and union hadn’t been held since Dec. 6, when talks abruptly ended after the players’ association made a counterproposal. The league said that offer was contingent on the union accepting three elements unconditionally and without further bargaining.

The NHL then pulled all existing offers off the table. Two days of sessions with mediators the following week ended without progress.

The NHL is the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout. A 48-game season was played in 1995 after a lockout stretched into January.

It is still possible this dispute eventually could be settled in the courts if the sides can’t reach a deal on their own.

The NHL filed a class-action suit this month in U.S. District Court in New York in an effort to show its lockout is legal. In a separate move, the league filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, contending bad-faith bargaining by the union.

Those moves were made because the players’ association took steps toward potentially declaring a “disclaimer of interest,” which would dissolve the union and make it a trade association. That would allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.

Union members voted overwhelmingly to give their board the power to file the disclaimer by Wednesday. If that deadline passes, another authorization vote could be held to approve a later filing.