The NHL was close to ending its four-month lockout this week before the league abruptly put an end to negotiations, union chief Donald Fehr said.\nThe leader of the NHL Players’ Association made remarks earlier this week that a deal appeared to be imminent on Thursday night before the league rejected the union’s proposal and pulled its own offer off the table. Despite contrary reports from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Fehr is sticking to his story this weekend, The Associated Press reported.\n “My comments from a couple of days ago stand on their own. I think we were very close,” Fehr told reporters Saturday after addressing a Canadian Auto Workers council meeting.\nBettman had said there was no progress toward ending the NHL lockout, and since talks have ended Fehr hasn’t spoken to the commissioner or deputy commissioner Bill Daly.\n“So far they have not indicated a willingness to continue discussions,” Fehr said.\nThe NHL lockout is growing ever closer to wiping out the second NHL season in the last eight years. The entire 2004-2005 season was lost due to a lockout, and this year’s stoppage in play has resulted in the cancellation of 422 regular-season games through December 14, along with the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day and the All-Star game.\nBettman has said the league will not play a schedule of fewer than 48 games, leaving roughly a month for the NHL and union to come to an agreement.\nThe lack of progress in the NHL lockout is starting to take its toll on players. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s brightest star and an active participant in negotiations, said the prospects for the season look so bleak that he’s now looking into playing in Europe, ESPN reported.