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NHL, union reach tentative agreement
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.”
By David Keene
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