NHL, players come to agreement to save season

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the players association came to an agreement Jan. 6.

The NHL will play an abbreviated 2013 season.

The league and the NHLPA reached an agreement early Sunday morning on a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement.

“We have reached the framework on a new collective bargaining agreement,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters after a marathon 16-hour negotiating session with the NHLPA. Bettman was joined by NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr.

“The details of [the new CBA] need to be put to paper. We’ve got to dot a lot of I’s and cross a lot of T’s There’s still a lot of work to be done. But the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon,” Bettman said. “We have to go through a ratification process. The Board of Governors has to approve it from the league side. Obviously the players have to approve it as well.”  

Added Fehr: “We have to do the legal work. We have to do the constituent communication work. Hopefully we’re at a place will all those things will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch, and we’ll get to what we used to call business as usual just as fast as we can.”

It is expected that both the league and the players will sign off on the new CBA, and training camps will begin as soon as this week. It is still to be determined whether there will be a 50-game schedule or 48-game schedule. The NHL played a 48-game schedule following the 1994-95 lockout.

Neither Bettman nor Fehr would provide specific details about the new agreement. According to a TSN report, the league moved off of its demands for a $60 million cap ceiling in 2013-14. The ceiling will be $64.3 million.

The players had argued that a $10 million per team drop from the 2013 season to 2013-14 would negatively impact teams such as the Flyers and Rangers and Wild, who would be forced to release players to comply with the $60 million ceiling. The cap for this season will be a pro-rated $70.2 million.

The NHLPA was also successful in moving the league off of its stance on limiting the length of free agent contracts to five years, and seven for teams re-signing their own players. The sides agreed to a clause which would allow contracts to be capped at seven years and eight if re-signing a player.

Finally the players association was able to successfully negotiate two NBA-style amnesty buyouts per team beginning prior to the start of the 2013-14 season and capped contract salary variance.    

As expected, the NHL was able to extract concessions from the union, most notably an immediate and lasting 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues.

Bettman and Fehr praised federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh for his assistance in getting the two sides back to the negotiating table. Beckenbaugh shuttled between the two sides for several days following Wednesday’s negotiating session at the league office that had left the players angered.

“On behalf of the FMCS, I want to extend our congratulations to both parties for their important accomplishment. The negotiated agreement represents the successful culmination of a long and difficult road in which the parties ultimately were able to reach mutually acceptable solutions to a wide variety of contentious subjects of bargaining. 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. 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,” Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen said in a statement. “Last but surely not least, I want to recognize the extraordinary contribution that my colleague, Scot Beckenbaugh, deputy director for mediation services, made in providing assistance of the highest caliber to the parties throughout the most critical periods in the negotiations.”

Follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.



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