There are several important dates to remember as the NHL lockout continues, and a number of them will come in the next few weeks.
The league has set many deadlines throughout the current labor dispute, and there's certainly going to be more of them since both sides are making very little progress in CBA talks.
Let's look at seven crucial dates to remember.
In less than 24 hours, the chances of playing a full 2012-13 season may be gone for good because league commissioner Gary Bettman has said multiple times (including Wednesday via Chris Botta of the Sports Business Journal) that a new CBA has to be done by October 25 to play a complete 82-game schedule.
Bettman: "The union has chosen not to engage on our proposal...so it looks like 82-game season will not be a reality."— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) October 24, 2012
If there's progress made in the next 48 hours and the two sides meet for CBA talks, maybe the league will extend this deadline, but there isn't any indication that will happen at the moment.
This is the soonest possible start date if the lockout was to conclude by the end of this week, but there's little reason to be optimistic that the NHL will be open for business on November 2.
If there is no deal by Thursday, this date could become meaningless if the NHL cancels more games, but there's always a possibility that November 2 could become another deadline later in the lockout.
If the season does not start on November 2, then the next best start date would be Black Friday (November 23).
NBC's Thanksgiving Showdown is an important date for the league each season, and since this year's matchup is between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, the league would be wise to preserve this game.
Starting the season on national television would be an ideal scenario for the NHL, which makes November 23 a good start date if no deal is reached by October 25.
When will the season start?
The next possible start date after November 23 could be December 1.
Since the NBA owns Christmas Day with their impressive lineup of games between marquee teams, the NHL would be wise to start the 2012-13 season before this holiday.
Another date to keep circled is December 6. This is the first Thursday in December, and could definitely be another deadline to get an agreement finalized if the lockout lasts through November.
It wouldn't be surprising if there's an early December deadline to reach a new CBA or all games until the New Year could be cancelled.
A decision on whether or not to cancel the Winter Classic will be made soon, and Gary Bettman gave a small update on the event following the New York Islanders' press conference in Brooklyn on Wednesday (via Jesse Spector of The Sporting News)
Meanwhile, the commissioner offers no assurances that the Winter Classic survives beyond tomorrow.— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) October 24, 2012
Losing the Winter Classic would be very disappointing, but the NHL is not going to throw money at an event if there's little chance that it will actually happen.
Expect a decision to be made on the Winter Classic sooner rather than later because having a game at Michigan Stadium in front of over 100,000 fans between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings—in addition to two alumni games in Detroit—is not something that you put together in a short amount of time.
Unless the league has the time it needs to best prepare Michigan Stadium and the Detroit area for the events, the Winter Classic and alumni games will probably be cancelled.
Until there is significant progress made toward getting a new CBA done, it's going to be hard for the league to know how much time it will have to prepare for the Winter Classic.
This is the date that the shortened 1994-95 NHL season started on, and it could certainly be a possible start date for the 2012-13 season if the league and its players continue their labor dispute for another few months.
Even though starting the new season on January 20 would only allow about 50 or so games to be played, hockey fans would gladly take that many games over losing the entire year.
The 2013 NHL All-Star Game isn't an event that the league will save the season for, but it is important because of all the corporate sponsors who invest money throughout All-Star Weekend.
The game is also in Columbus, a struggling hockey market that needs an event like the All-Star Game to inject some hockey enthusiasm into what will likely be another unsuccessful season for the Blue Jackets.
Even if a deal gets done soon, the All-Star Game might still be cancelled to help fit in as many regular-season games as possible.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.