The day fans and players have been waiting months for finally arrived. The NHL lockout is over.
With a deal being reached before 5 a.m., those not in New York City for the negotiations woke up Sunday morning like it was Christmas.
“I’m freakin pumped up,” Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson said in a text message.
All it took to bring out the excitement around hockey was a brief message from Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players’ Association Executive Director Donald Fehr.
“Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” Bettman said.
As details trickle out, such as the 10-year CBA term, seven-year contract limit (eight years for teams signing their own players) and an even split of revenue between players and owners, all that seemed to matter in the moment was that hockey was back.
“I’ve been dreaming of this day!!! #FINALLY,” Caps forward Matt Hendricks wrote on Twitter.
Defenseman Mike Green called it the “Best day of my life!”
The shortened 2013 NHL season is expected to be either 48 or 50 games, starting either Jan. 15 or 19. A week-long training camp will precede it, but first the new CBA must be ratified by the Board of Governors and the NHLPA.
The settlement came on Day 113 of the lockout, which caused plenty of angst among everyone involved in the game. The roller-coaster ride of negotiations made it seem as if a deal was so close and the season was on the brink many times.
Sunday morning brought some welcome finality, even if “we have to dot a lot of I’s and cross a lot of T’s. There is still a lot of work to be done,” Bettman said. News of it all being over greeted players very early.
“What a great way to wake up!” Caps right wing Troy Brouwer wrote on Twitter.
Talks lasted all night, a marathon session that could not have happened without the efforts of federal mediator Scot L. Beckenbaugh, who was brought back into the picture recently.
“Scot Beckenbaugh, next time I’m in NYC, dinner is on me,” Edmonton Oilers forward Sam Gagner wrote on Twitter. “Thanks for helping get us back on the ice.”
Caps goaltender Braden Holtby has been playing for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League during the lockout.
“Huge thank you to all the players who put in countless hours during these negotiations!” he wrote.
Bettman and Fehr said in the early-morning briefing in New York that they wouldn’t be taking any questions. One slipped through, about how to get fans back after this long, tiresome process.
“Hopefully within just a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us,” Fehr said.
“Absolutely,” Bettman said.