It appears the long-awaited ending to a 113-day lockout of the NHL players by the league is finally here. After a 16-hour marathon negotiation session, the league and players union announced they have come to a tentative 10-year agreement.
All that’s left is for some language to be firmed up, and ratification by a majority vote involving the league’s 30 team owners and the union’s 740 some-odd players.
The plan is for a 48- or 50-game season to start within days of the deal is finalized.
The Associated Press reports the teams and the players will split hockey-related revenues, 50-50. The league initially wanted to cut the players’ share from 57 percent to 46 percent.
The new collective bargaining agreement also allows for a maximum of seven years on a free agent contract, with clubs having the option for an eighth year to re-sign their own players.
The salary cap for the 2012-2013 season — or, what’s left of it — will be $70.2 million, dropping to $64.3 million in the 2013-2014 season. Teams must maintain a minimum $44 million payroll.
In addition to a new pension agreement, player salaries may not vary more than 35 percent year to year, and for the final year in a player’s contract, the salary may not be more than 50 percent of the highest year.
Ron Hainsey, defenseman for the Winnipeg Jets and negotiator for the players, says the players are ready to get back to work. “Players obviously would rather not have been here, but our focus now is to give the fans whatever it is — 48 games, 50 games — the most exciting season we can,” says Hainsey. “The mood has been nervous for a while. You want to be playing. You want to be done with this.”
And so do the fans. So, what’s the word, hockey fans? Is the current season salvaged, or is this too little, too late?