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The National Hockey League is coming back, but will it be better than ever?

After burning the midnight oil through a marathon negotiating session that wrapped up around 5:30 am ET on Sunday morning. A tentativedeal on a 10 year collective bargaining agreement has been reached between the National Hockey League and its Players Association.

The deal was announced jointly by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr in the same hotel conference where the negotiations were conducted with the assistance of Scot Beckenbaugh, Deputy Director for Mediation Services for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

“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. We are not in a position to give you information right now about schedule, when we are starting. It’s early in the morning and we have been at this all day and all night, obviously. But, we will be back to you very shortly, hopefully, later today with more information in that regard.”

Get Your Tickets for the NHL Season

The next stage in the process is for both parties to ratify the new document. The league has not announced a potential start date for an abbreviated season because that all depends on how this final process takes.

“Any process like this in the system we have is difficult; it can be long,” Fehr said. “I’ve said repeatedly throughout this process, somebody would say, ‘What do you see ahead?’ And, the answer was, ‘You get up tomorrow and you try to find a way to do it and you keep doing that until you find a way to succeed.”

“As Gary just indicated, we have the framework of a deal. We have to do the legal work and we have to do the constituent-communication work. At least, from my [standpoint], and I’m sure Gary’s too, we need to let them know the details before we tell all of you. Having said that, hopefully, we’re at a place where all those things will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch and we’ll get back to what we used to call business as usual as fast as we can.”

The biggest hurdles facing both parties entering this final negotiation session was the revenue split, Year 2 Salary Cap, Players’ pension, CBA term length, and player contract length. All of which were resolved after several days of bargaining between the NHL, NHLPA, and the federal mediator.

Details of the deal are still emerging but this is what has been released so far:

- 10 year CBA term length with opt out clause after year eight. (There will be labor peace until 2020, potentially 2022.)

- The players’ share of hockey related revenue will drop from 57 percent to 50-50 split for all 10 years.

- The league came off their demand of a $60 million cap in Year 2 of the CBA. They met the players’ request to have the Year 2 cap at $64.3 million, which will be the upper limit. The cap floor will be at $44 million. Teams can spend up $70.2 million even the upper limit of the salary cap in Year 1 is $60 million.

- Each team will have two amnesty buyouts that can be used to terminate contracts after this season and next season. The buyouts will count against the players’ overall share in revenues, but not the team’s salary cap.

- A player contract term limit for free agents will be seven years and eight years for a team signing its own player. (Please remember Bill Daly said back in December, “That player contract length of five years was the hill the owners were going to die on.”)

- The salary variance on contracts from year to year cannot vary more than 35 percent and the final year cannot vary more than 50 percent of the highest year.

Everyone knew the players share was going to 50-50 after the NFL and NBA had the players’ share of revenue dropped to 50-50 or just around a little under that. The big sticking point of player contract length and variance went in the players favor.

However, many inside the league and players’ association stated that this deal could have been done a lot sooner if they had known the league was to move off their demands of five years for player contract length and 5 percent salary variance.

The negotiation process was a struggled filled affair with bad feelings and accusations of ill will. However, both parties knew they were facing a January 11th deadline, where potentially another season could be lost. The league owners and players did severe damage to the game, but will not know the full extent of that for two or three years.

Commissioner Gary Bettman estimated that the league was making an estimated $3.3 Billion in 2011-12, but during the lockout was losing $18 to $20 million every day they did not play. The players on the other hand lost half of that in salaries per day.

If another season had been cancelled due to labor strife, the sport of hockey would have never recovered. Hockey was tittering on the edge of relevancy as it is, and if another season was not played it would have brought the sport to irrelevancy in the United States.

But with a potential 50 or 48-game season being played it keeps the game around and on the minds of people who watch sports. The NHL knows it will be hard to bring the casual fan back to the game, but will the die-hard fan come back?

All the hockey fans that say they will not come back will be back. However, some fans may take their sweet time coming back and make their favorite team suffer just a little longer. While fans are excited that the lockout is over, they all wondered where the urgency was back in September before the lockout even happened.

While most fans will be back to the sport they love, they will not forget the suffering they went through over the last five months. If you are a hockey fan you are passionate and it is in your blood.

Hockey is a game that has a die-hard following and all hockey fans hope the cycle of lockouts has been ended.


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