With the league owners determined to find a cheaper way to run the sport, the long and fruitless attempt to save the season ended.
"I said NHL teams would not play again until our economic problems had been solved," Commissioner Gary Bettman said.
"It is my sad duty to announce that because that solution has not yet been attained, it no longer is practical to conduct even an abbreviated season."
Bettman denied reports that the players and owners had been close to a settlement.
"We weren't as close as people were speculating," he said. "We were still very far apart."
Union chief Bob Goodenow said every offer the players made came closer to the owners' stance.
"We never had a real negotiating partner," Goodenow said.
With no pressure remaining to reach an agreement, the sport's future is in question.
"The best deal that was on the table is gone," Bettman said. "At some point we have to go back to the table, but I can't tell you when or under what circumstances."