Now, with Thanksgiving just days away and the North American winter rapidly approaching, time could be running out for the feuding sides to reach an agreement and save the season.
No-one knows exactly when the cutoff point is but the clock is ticking and the financial costs are running into hundreds of millions of dollars with the lockout already more than two months old.
The NHL have already postponed more than 300 games and cancelled the showpiece Winter Classic. The league is almost certain to announce another batch of postponements, possibly as early as next week.
There was some hope the two sides might be on the verge of cutting a deal when they held a series of closed-door meetings in New York last week.
But they ended without any significant progress and the rhetoric from both sides remains gloomy.
"I think the process is stalled right now," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Los Angeles Times. "We are done with making proposals and we don't have any new ideas."
The Canadian Press reported that the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called the players' association (NHLPA) and suggested they take a two-week cooling-off break before resuming talks.
NHLPA counsel Steve Fehr said the players wanted to keep negotiating.
"We believe that it is more likely that we will make progress if we meet than if we don't. So we are ready to meet," Fehr said in a statement.
"If indeed they do not want to meet, it will be at least the third time in the last three months that they have shut down the dialogue, saying they will not meet unless the players meet their preconditions. What does that tell you about their interest in resolving this?"
Labor disputes are not uncommon in America's professional sports and the NHL is well accustomed to work stoppages, with this the fourth in 20 years.
The first dispute, in 1992, lasted just 10 days and was resolved without any games being lost but the next two escalated.
The second stoppage, in 1994, went for three months and wiped out nearly half the season, while the entire season was scrapped in 2004-05.
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