Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 1/6/13
NEW YORK (AP) -- Hockey is back, and it took nearly four months and one long night to get the game back on the ice. With the season on the line, the NHL and the players' association agreed on a tentative pact to end a 113-day lockout and save what was left of a fractured schedule. Commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Donald Fehr ceased being adversaries and announced the deal while standing side by side near a wall toward the back of the negotiating room and showing a tinge of weariness. "I want to thank Don Fehr," Bettman said. "We went through a tough period, but it's good to be at this point." A marathon negotiating session that lasted more than 16 hours, stretching from Saturday afternoon until just before dawn Sunday, produced a 10-year deal. "We've got to dot a lot of Is and cross a lot of Ts," Bettman said. "There's still a lot of work to be done, but the basic details of the agreement have been agreed upon." Even players who turned into negotiators showed the strain of the long, difficult process. "It was a battle," said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, a key member of the union's bargaining team. "Gary said a month ago it was a tough negotiation. That's what it was. "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. The mood has been nervous for a while. You want to be playing. You want to be done with this." The collective bargaining agreement must be ratified by a majority of the league's 30 owners and the union's membership of approximately 740 players. "Hopefully within a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us," Fehr said. All schedule issues, including the length of the season, still need to be worked out. The NHL has models for 50- and 48-game seasons. The original estimate was regular-season games could begin about eight days after a deal was reached. It is believed that all games will be played within the two respective conferences, but that also hasn't been decided. The players have been locked out since Sept. 16, the day after the previous agreement expired. That deal came after an extended lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. "Any process like this is difficult. It can be long," Fehr said. Time was clearly a factor, with the sides facing a deadline of Thursday or Friday to reach a deal that would allow for a 48-game season to start a week later. Bettman had said the league could not allow a season of fewer than 48 games per team. All games through Jan. 14, along with the All-Star game and the New Year's Day Winter Classic had already been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule. Without an agreement, the NHL faced the embarrassment of losing two seasons due to a labor dispute, something that has never happened in another North American sports league. The 2004-05 season was lost while the sides negotiated hockey's first salary cap. Under the new CBA, free-agent contracts will have a maximum length of seven years, but clubs can go to eight years to re-sign their own players. Each side can opt out of the deal after eight years. The pension plan was "the centerpiece of the deal for the players," Hainsey said. The actual language of the pension plan still has to be written, but Hainsey added there is nothing substantial that needs to be fixed. The players' share of hockey-related income, a total that reached a record 3.3 billion last season, will drop from 57 percent to a 50-50 split. The salary cap for the upcoming season will be 70.2 million and will then go down to 64.3 million in the 2013-14 season. All clubs must have a minimum payroll of 44 million. The league had wanted next season's cap to fall to 60 million, but agreed to an upper limit of 64.3 -- the same amount as last season. Inside individual player contracts, the salary can't vary more than 35 percent year to year, and the final year can't be more than 50 percent of the highest year. A decision on whether NHL players will participate in the 2014 Olympics will be made apart from the CBA. While it is expected that players will take part, the IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation will have discussions with the league and the union before the matter is settled. After the sides stayed mostly apart for two days, following late-night talks that turned sour, federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh worked virtually around the clock to get everyone back to the bargaining table. This time it worked -- early on the 113th day of the work stoppage. George Cohen, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director, called the deal "the successful culmination of a long and difficult road." "Of course, the agreement will pave the way for the professional players to return to the ice and for the owners to resume their business operations," he said in a statement. "But the good news extends beyond the parties directly involved; fans throughout North America will have the opportunity to return to a favorite pastime and thousands of working men and women and small businesses will no longer be deprived of their livelihoods." Before the sides ever came to an understanding regarding a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, the NHL first tried to cut the players' share from 57 percent to 46 percent. A series of talks in the first couple of weeks of September don't bring the sides any closer, and the board of governors gave Bettman the authority to lock out the players at midnight on Sept. 15. There was optimism about an end for the lockout when the sides held talks in New York on Dec. 5-6. The roller coaster took the participants and the fans on an up-and-down thrill ride that ended in major disappointment. Fehr painted a picture that the sides were close to a deal, and Bettman chastised him for getting people's hopes up. Negotiations broke off, and the NHL announced it was pulling all offers off the table. It wasn't until Beckenbaugh's determined effort in the final two days of the prolonged negotiations that the sides finally found common ground. "We were making progress continually and to make a deal you have to continue to make progress until it's over," Hainsey said. "That finally happened today."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Bubba Watson's caddie owns heckler at PGA Championship

NFL denies sending Donald Trump letter about schedule

Michael Bennett calls out NFL stars for not speaking up on social matters

Nationals make astute move in acquiring Melancon

Son of former NFL player Antonio Armstrong charged with death of parents

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

U.S. Senator “appalled” by Bettman’s stance on concussions

Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms look a little treasonous

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Texans GM 'disappointed' in DeAndre Hopkins

Can Andre Johnson end his regression in Tennessee?

Favre opens up about painkiller addiction during career

Miami women’s basketball coach criticizes Texas A&M following slideshow

Twin Cities preparing for influx of sex trafficking during Super Bowl LII

WATCH: Bautista bat flip will be available as NHL 17 celebration

Former USMNT, current MLS forward Davies battled cancer, in remission

The definitive guide to U.S. Men's Basketball at Rio 2016

Tony Romo training camp picture leads to fat jokes, concern

Matt Cullen’s family eats cereal out of the Stanley Cup

Texas A&M suspends coaches for sexist slideshow

10 most dangerous college football defenders in 2016

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker