TORONTO – Hockey fans will soon be back watching NHL games after the league and its players reached a tentative 10-year labor deal early Sunday morning.
The end of the 113-day NHL lockout followed 16 hours of marathon bargaining between team owners and the NHL Players' Association in New York that started Saturday afternoon.
Whether the NHL plays a shortened 50-game season from Jan. 15, or a 48-game season from Jan. 19, will depend on how fast the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified and teams set up player training camps this coming week.
A bug-eyed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr emerged Sunday morning just before 5 a.m. to jointly tell reporters about the deal.
"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, but the basic framework has been agreed upon,” Bettman said after a federal mediator, Scot Beckenbaugh, proved key to seeing both sides in the bitter labor dispute finally shake hands on a deal.
The new CBA replaces the deal that expired Sept. 15, just before the start of the 2012-13 season was scrapped.
The 10-year deal, with an opt-out after eight years, should bring comfort to NBC Sports, which has a 10-year broadcast deal with the NHL that was marred by the labor dispute.
NHL play resuming is also good news for Canadian broadcasters, especially pubcaster CBC as it bled audiences and advertising revenue while it could not air live hockey games on its Hockey Night in Canada telecasts and had to rely on repeats of classic NHL games.
Now the NHL faces up an uphill battle to win back alienated or angry fans.