The National Hockey League’s collective agreement expired at midnight Saturday with no word from either side that a new deal had been reached, triggering a lockout of the league’s players.

The expired collective agreement ended a season-long lockout in 2005. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had said the season would not begin without a new collective bargaining agreement.

Hockey fans were hopeful that a last-minute deal could be reached. But NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed earlier Saturday that no talks were to take place, making a lockout essentially inevitable.

“In light of the fact that neither party has indicated an intention to move off of its last proposal, we have decided that there is no point in convening a formal bargaining session," Daly wrote in an email to The Canadian Press. "We will keep in close contact in the coming days and if anything changes, I am sure we will be in touch."

Pre-season games could be cancelled as soon as next week. The regular season had been scheduled to begin on Oct. 11.

Steve Fehr, special counsel to the NHLPA, said the union had requested a meeting with the league on Saturday, but that request was turned down.

"(Executive director) Don Fehr, myself and several players on the negotiating committee were in (New York) and prepared to meet," he said in a statement. "The NHL said that it saw no purpose in having a formal meeting. There have been and continue to be private, informal discussions between representatives of both sides."

The league and the union last met on Wednesday, with each side offering a new proposal. At the time, Bettman said he wanted to hear more from the union.

On Friday a request for a temporary injunction against an NHL lockout was rejected.

After an emergency session, the Quebec Labour Relations Board turned down the injunction request, but ruled that more hearings were required to make a final decision.

The application to declare a lockout illegal in Quebec was filed by 16 members of the Montreal Canadiens and the NHL Players’ Association. No date was set for further hearings.

With that ruling, the Canadiens players along with players from the NHL’s 29 other clubs will be locked out if a work stoppage proceeds.

A misunderstanding by the players: NHL analyst

Hockey analyst and former Toronto Maple Leafs Assistant General Manager Bill Watters told CTV News Channel on Saturday that the disagreement between the players and the league boils down to a misunderstanding over how much money the teams are making.

“The fact remains that only seven teams in the National Hockey League of a total of 30 make a profit. That means there are 23 others that either break even or don’t,” he said.

“At the end of the day the guy who is running the league and the group of owners have not got a very good financial model going forward, and the players seem to think they do.”

Watters said if players had a better understanding of the league’s financial situation, a deal might be possible.

“Until and when the players decide that they’re going to get on the ownership side of how they’re going to do business -- because after all an owner by definition does have some input into that-- they’re not going to make any headway at all,” he said.

Watters said he doesn’t think a lockout will affect fan affection towards the game.

“I think people love the game and they love to go and see their team win,” he said. ““It won’t affect the way people feel about hockey. It may affect the way they feel about ownership and unions, but that happens in everyday life as well,” said Watters.

Fans, workers, businesses react

Hockey fans, small business owners and servers from coast to coast reacted to news of the near-certain lockout on Friday.

"Every night, me and my dad watch a hockey game before I go to bed,” says Nolan Garnett, a 13-year-old hockey player from Cole Harbour, N.S. “If this lockout happens, we won't be able to do that.”

In Winnipeg -- home to the newly re-established Jets -- business owners and workers who rely on fan revenue told CTV Winnipeg they’re concerned about the loss in income they’ll suffer under a work stoppage.

“I’m going to be worried about how much money I’m making,” said bartender Jarrett Petit.

Petit works in downtown Winnipeg and said if the Jets aren’t playing this season, he may find it more difficult to pay his rent.

“When the Jets are here, the money is a lot better,” he said. “When they’re not, it’s slow and I’m fighting for hours with other bartenders.”

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce said a lockout would have far reaching effects on the local economy.

“Those people were paying for parking. Those people were going to restaurants. Those people were going to bars,” said chamber vice-president of policy Chuck Davidson. “Those people were spending money when they were going to games.”

At the heart of the disagreement between the league and the players is over how to share the overall revenue.

The league is insisting the players get no more than 49 per cent of revenue -- a drop from the current 57 per cent they now receive.

The Players’ Association is asking for 54.3 per cent, with the percentage dropping over the course of a six-year contract.

Some players could look for other opportunities in Europe. The Russia-based KHL is the most financially appealing, while Switzerland, Sweden and Finland could also be popular destinations.

Players are due to receive the first of this season’s 13 NHL paycheques on Oct. 15, but that will not happen if the lockout continues beyond then.

Bettman and Daly have said they will go without pay during the lockout; NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr has gone without pay since July to show solidarity with his membership.

The last NHL labour stoppage caused a complete cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season, a lockout that ended only when the players agreed to a salary cap and a 24 per cent cut in salary.

The lockout will be the NHL’s fourth work stoppage in 20 years.

With files from The Canadian Press