After a grueling 113-day work stoppage, and a marathon 16-hour negotiating session with a federal mediator, the NHL and the NHL Player's Association tentatively agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement around 5 a.m. ET Sunday morning.
Yes, that's right. You're doing the math in your head now. Federal mediator Scott Beckenbaugh brought the NHL's Gary Bettman and Bob Fehr, the man in charge of negotiating for the players, together around 1 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon. The two groups had not met since Thursday, and Beckenbaugh was told not bring them together unless he thought they were close to an agreement. They negotiated in a New York hotel for sixteen hours straight and hammered out an agreement. Word coming out of the room shortly after midnight said they were trying to get all the small issues resolved so they may reconvene Sunday to discuss the big stuff. But nope! They kept going and got the whole job done. Now Beckenbaugh's effort is being praised as "herculean" by his bosses. That's how bad this thing was. It needed the strength of a demi-god to get a deal done.
As a native Canadian, this writer would like to take a moment to have a celebratory GIF interlude:
You don't know how long we've been waiting to do that. Also, watch this.
So, what are the important parts of the new deal? Depends on how much you care about the business of the game, really. There will be a season this year, though it's unclear right now when it will start. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is for ten years of peace and lockout-free prosperity, with an opt-out option after eight. The NHL will adopt amnesty buyouts -- two per team -- similar to the NBA's amnesty rules. There are now limits on how long a player's contract with a team can be: eight years for a player resigning with the same team; seven for a player signing with a new team. There are other details, sure, but they involve complicated terms like "hockey related revenue," and "escrow," and "realignment," that we're fairly certain you don't know about or care enough about to read. Should you be inclined to look further into the details of the deal, we recommend Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski or the Sporting News' Sean Gentille. If you want the super casual fan's guide, The New York Times is where you should head.
The NHL is expected to officially approve the deal sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, depending on how long it will take to get the board of governors together. If you're looking for a framework for when hockey will back on your television screen, look no further than the first lockout of Gary Bettman's tenure as commissioner for a likely guide:
And if you're interested in knowing just how bad things were for the reporters tasked with staying up all night to wait outside the hotel room for the slightest indication of how things are going, look no further than this tweet from the National Post's Bruce Arthur from the wee hours of last night:
Lotta people taking pictures of a sleeping reporter right now.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) January 6, 2013
(It should be noted that some reporters in Canada are currently still awake, after reporting on the lockout for sixteen hours and the World Junior Championships that wrapped in Ufa, Russia Saturday morning with the U.S. winning gold, and broadcasting live on Canadian television after going for more than 24 hours without sleep.)
Also, here's a sign of how badly fans wanted this deal done so there would be a season:
I had a girl tweet that she could kiss me right now. Another fan says I'm his favorite person. People usually shoot messengers, so cool!— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) January 6, 2013
So, yeah, hockey's back.