The NHL nightmare is over.
After a marathon, 16-hour marathon session that began Saturday and stretched into the wee hours of Sunday morning in New York City, the NHL and NHLPA emerged with the framework of a deal that put pro hockey back on the ice. The work of FMCS mediator Scot Beckenbaugh was instrumental in working through some bumps in the road that cropped up Thursday, and the sides essentially locked themselves in a room until a deal was agreed in principle.
"We would be remiss if we didnt thank Scot Beckenbaugh for his assistance in mediation process, said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "I want to thank NHLPA executive director Don Fehr. We went through a tough period, but it's good to be at this point."
There are still issues to be worked out (the start to regular season and training camps, players participating in the Olympic games etc.), but both Bettman and Fehr made the joint announcement shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Both the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA membership must ratify the agreement, but that's not expected to be a problem given the lateness of the hour.
When contacted by CSNNE.com about the agreement, Bs enforcer Shawn Thornton described his feelings in short and sweet terms:
Im just happy this madness is over so I can get back to work.
TONIGHT AT 6pm
Shawn Thornton on Chevrolet SportsNet Central
Andrew Ference was a member of the NHLPA negotiating committee over the last few days leading up to the deal, and had this to say on his @Ferknuckle twitter account: As players we can now do what we do best. Proudly pull on our jerseys and play with complete passion for our cities and fans. I hope that we can replace the intense negativity brought on our sport with a reminder of how great it can be when the action is on the ice. From my grandparents to our Bs fans, I am deeply sorry that we had to miss so much hockey. All we can do now is play our hearts out for you.
According to sources, the new CBA is a 10-year deal with seven-year term limit on individual player contracts (eight years if a player is re-signing with their current team), a 64.3 million salary cap ceiling in the second year of the deal and a new pension plan thats expected to be the only real win that the players received in negotiations. It was originally expected that training camp will begin next weekend with an NHL schedule of 48 games expected to begin on Jan. 19, but all of that could be enhanced given the early agreement.
The NHL could bump the schedule up to 50 games in length and start both training camp and the regular season schedule several days earlier. Its expected that an abbreviated training camp will be no longer than a week for NHL players and a handful of invitees from the AHL and junior hockey. The Bruins were scheduled to travel to the Bell Centre to face the rival Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 19 in the previous version of the NHL schedule, and that could very well still remain their season opening tilt.
The NHL lockout officially ended at 113 days of fighting, bile and as Thornton described it madness, and now guarantees that the league will have a long stretch of labor peace that is badly needed after two lengthy work stoppages in the last eight years.