The NHL moved a step closer to a hockey season Wednesday when the leagues board of governors unanimously ratified the terms of a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement.
The NHL players are expected to vote on the CBA Friday and Saturday. Once thats done, the league will release the schedules for a 48-game regular season that will start Jan. 19.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he told the leagues 30 governors the new CBA was a good deal, a fair deal. Its a deal that took months to complete, coming after a 113-day lockout that tested the patience of owners, players and especially fans.
In the end neither side got everything it wanted and everyone lost in the short term, Bettman said in a press conference. But the NHL gained a long-term agreement thats good for players and good for teams and should guarantee the future success of NHL hockey for many years to come. It will help the game to grow, ensuring greater economic stability for all of our teams.
Bettman also issued a personal apology.
As commissioner of the National Hockey League it falls upon me to make tough decisions that disappoint and occasionally anger players and fans, he said. This was a long and extremely difficult negotiation, one that took a lot longer than anybody wanted. I know it caused frustration, disappointment and even suffering to a lot of people who have supported the National Hockey League in many different ways.
Once the CBA is approved by the players, training camps will open Sunday. Teams will only have a few days to set rosters and prepare for a shortened season with added intensity.
The Carolina Hurricanes 48-game schedule will be against Eastern Conference teams. Theyre expected to play five games against each of two Southeast Division teams, four games against each of the other two divisional opponents and three games against each of the other 10 Eastern teams.
There are so many unknowns, Canes forward Jeff Skinner said Wednesday. Weve just got to come together as quick as we can. That first month is going to be big and then we get into crunch time.
Canes defenseman Tim Gleason said Wednesday he never expected the work stoppage to last so long. Soon after the lockout began on Sept. 16, Gleason took his family back to their offseason home in Michigan.
Gleason said he planned on staying two weeks. It turned out to be months as the lockout lingered, the CBA haggling continued, games were canceled and there was talk of the entire season being canceled.
In the back of my mind there was no reason not to play, Gleason said. There was a boatload of money that was made in years past and there was no reason not to play.
It was just the business side of things that had to be cleared away. You never really thought it would take this long to do.