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NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL made a new proposal to the players' association, hoping to spark talks to end the long lockout and save the hockey season.

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Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday the league made its offer Thursday and was waiting for a response. The sides haven't met in person since a second round of talks with a federal mediator broke down Dec. 13.

The lockout has reached its 104th day, and the NHL said it doesn't want a season of less than 48 games. To make that possible, a deal likely must be reached by mid-January.

``We delivered to the union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA,'' Daly said in a statement Friday. ``We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible.''

The union didn't immediately respond to a request for a comment.

The lockout has reached a critical stage, threatening to force a complete cancellation of a season for the second time in eight years. All games through Jan. 14, plus the Winter Classic and the All-Star game already have been called off. The next round of cuts could claim the entire schedule.

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 could eventually 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 filing 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 Jan. 2. If that deadline passes, another authorization vote could be held to approve a later filing.

Negotiations between the NHL and the union have been at a standstill since talks ended Dec. 6. One week later, the sides convened again with federal mediators in New Jersey, but still couldn't make progress.

The sides have been unable to reach agreement on the length of the new deal, how long individual player contract can be, and the variance in salary from year to year. The NHL is looking for an even split of revenues with players. In its previous offer this month, the league agreed to increase its amount of deferred payments from $211 million to $300 million.

The NHL pulled all previous offers off the table after the union didn't agree to terms on its last proposal without negotiation.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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