The lockout has officially ended with Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman announcing the reaching of a deal to the press early Sunday morning.
While most of North America was enjoying the kickoff to the NFL playoffs, the NHL and NHLPA were grinding out the afternoon and late night hours to materialize a new deal. Representatives met for a grueling 16-hour session into the late hours of Sunday night and broke with the news hockey fans have been waiting for since the summer, when negotiations began. The so-called ‘frame-work’ of the deal has been agreed upon, but the specifics of the deal still need to be put to paper.
“We have to dot a lot of I’s and cross a lot of T’s,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework has been agreed upon.”
The fact of the matter is hockey in 2013 has been given the green light. The league has stated that it aims to begin a 48-game season on January 19. The 10-year deal has an opt-out clause after eight years.
As for the specifics on the core economic aspects of the deal, those were released by TSN’s: Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Aaron Ward. These include the expected 50/50 split in revenue sharing between the owners and players over the 10-year period. The previous deal had the players collecting 57 percent.
The salary cap in Year 1 will be $60 million, with teams able to spend up to $70.2 million. The cap floor is to be $44 million.
Another leading issue during the negotiations has been contract variance. The new deal will limit players’ contracts to vary 35 percent and 50 percent between their highest paid year and their final year of the contract.
Sidney Crosby joined TSN’s James Duthie via satellite last night and the frustration was apparent. Though he was obviously excited to return to hockey, the left-over disappointment of the process was clear. He said he was just looking forward to competing again. This lockout has been especially hard on him with his injuries in the last couple seasons that limited his playing time.
“Everyone is obviously relieved that it’s over and done with, for all intents and purposes, and we’re able to kind of move on to what we kind of enjoy doing a lot more than this,” said Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan.
The deal also includes taking the iron fist away from NHL Disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. The process for on-ice discipline will go through Shanahan and eventually make its way through Bettman. Any suspension of six or more games will be determined by a neutral third party for its official sentencing.
An interesting twist to future entry drafts, all non-playoff teams will be included in the lottery for the 1st overall pick.
As for the schedule, the league has already cancelled a total of 510 games, including all games through January 14.
This fantastic news comes as a welcome surprise especially to Canadians who were left with a bitter taste in their mouths just a day earlier. Team Canada failed to medal at the World Junior Championships, losing in the semi-finals to the Americans. They followed suit in the bronze medal game, losing to the Russians in overtime, thus ending their 14-year medal streak.
Nonetheless, the lockout is over. So get those flags and jerseys out folks, hockey is back!