NEW YORK, NY (NEWS1130) – The earliest a shortened NHL season will start is Dec. 31.

The league has cancelled another 104 regular season games, bringing the total number wiped away by the lockout to 526. That represents nearly 43 per cent of the season.

The entire schedule through Dec. 30 — plus the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium and Jan. 27 all-star game in Columbus — 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.”