TORONTO, Ont. – A work stoppage is looming in the NHL that could threaten part or all of the hockey season, including the highly anticipated Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings set for January 1st 2013.

The NHL players’ association presented its first offer to the league, Tuesday. The NHL tabled its opening offer last month.

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said the union’s proposal offered a “different kind of an approach” after the owners proposed a 20 per cent reduction of the players’ share of revenues and limitations to free agency.

The union said its offer to the league included a smaller percentage of revenues for players and an expanded revenue sharing program to help struggling teams.

Fehr said players could give up as much as US$465 million in revenue under the proposal if the league continues to grow at an average rate.

“What we’re suggesting is that the players partner with the financially stronger owners to help stabilize the industry and assist the less financially strong ownership groups,” said Fehr.

“We do believe that the proposal the players made today, once implemented, can produce a stable industry. One that, going forward, can give us a chance to move beyond the recurring labour strife that has plagued the NHL for the last two-decades.”

Fehr said fans and players alike hope both sides can reach an agreement before the lockout deadline.

“Players certainly hope there is no lockout, they are prepared to continue negotiating until we get an agreement.” Fehr said. “They want to play every bit as much as the fans want to watch them play.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he would not immediately comment on Tuesday’s NHLPA proposal.

“I’m not going to say what the proposal means, my hope is that we can take care of business in the next month, that is what our goal is.”

An NHL lockout seems increasingly likely after Commissioner Gary Bettman said the owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season.

The NHL and NHLPA seem far away from a deal with current agreement expiring on September 15th.

Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr won’t sit down at the bargaining table together until next Wednesday.