By LARRY LAGE
The Associated Press
The NHL appears headed toward a 48-game season for the second time in two decades.
"I think 48 is most likely at this point, unless the players can expedite their ratification process," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email Monday to The Associated Press.
The NHL shortened its 82-game slate to 48 games for the 1994-95 season after a 103-day lockout. A 301-day lockout in 2004-05 made the NHL the first major North American professional sports league to lose an entire season.
When the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement was agreed to Sunday morning -- after 16 hours of negotiations -- there was some talk of having a 50-game season start later this month.
The NHL and the players' association are working on a memorandum of understanding, which could be completed soon, then voted on by owners and players. The league has circulated a memo to teams telling them to be ready to play by Jan. 19, the date the shortened season is expected to start.
"As we prepare for the season opener, I want to apologize to all Blues fans, especially our season ticket holders, suite holders, and sponsors," St. Louis Blues owner Tom Stillman said in a statement released by the team. "We share in your disappointment and frustration about the lockout."