League and players reach deal to end NHL lockout
By Steve Keating ,ReutersThe National Hockey League (NHL) and locked-out players reached a tentative agreement on Sunday to end a costly labor dispute and salvage a condensed season that was days away from being canceled entirely.
January 8, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The deal was announced jointly by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) Executive Director Donald Fehr following a marathon 16-hour negotiation session that began on Saturday at a Manhattan hotel.
“We have to dot a lot of I's and cross a lot of T's. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework has been agreed upon,” Bettman told reporters.
“We have to go through a ratification process and the Board of Governors has to approve it from the league side and, obviously, the players have to approve it as well.”
Bettman said details on the upcoming season could be released later on Sunday and some reports suggest a 50-game season, down from the usual 82 games, could begin Jan. 15.
News of the tentative deal came just days ahead of the NHL's self-imposed Jan. 11 deadline to reach an agreement or risk losing a season that was originally due to begin last October.
With talks unraveling and the NHL on the verge of canceling the entire season, the 113-day lockout ended with the help of a U.S. federal mediator who enticed the two parties back to the bargaining table for a final push to make a deal.
The return of the NHL created an instant buzz across hockey mad Canada, with even Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper greeting the news with relief.
“Glad to see a deal between the #NHL players and the league. Great news for hockey fans and communities across Canada.” Harper tweeted.
Many teams, particularly those based in the United States, are bracing for a fan backlash while owners and players begin to calculate the damage done by the lockout.
After four work stoppages in 20 years fans appeared mixed on whether to forgive or punish both sides for dragging them through another labor dispute.
The lockout took a toll on Canada's economy, specifically the many sporting goods stores, bars and other businesses that rely heavily on alcohol and merchandise sales during the hockey season, which lasts nine months when played in full.
The dispute, which the league has said was costing it about US$18-US$20 million a day, or about US$2 billion to date, began in mid-September when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired with both sides at odds over how to split the NHL's US$3.3 billion in revenue.
Despite a new US$2 billion television deal, record revenues and Bettman's boast that the NHL was enjoying unprecedented popularity, owners decided to once again test the loyalty of sponsors, business partners and fans suffering from lockout fatigue by seeking more concessions from players.