The NHL Lockout is over. After a marathon 16-hour negotiation session, the NHL and its players’ union reached a tentative agreement on a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement early Sunday morning.
The NHL owners locked their players out on Sept. 15 after the last collective bargaining agreement had expired. What was expected to be a “tweak and a fix” ended up being what some have called the most embarrassing and disastrous negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement in all of pro sports.
Now that a tentative deal has been agreed upon by the NHL and the NHLPA, the new collective bargaining agreement is expected to be ratified by both sides. The owners are expected to vote at the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday and the players on Thursday and Friday.
Once the deal has been ratified it is expected that all 30 teams will open a week-long training camp on Sunday. January 19 is being targeted as opening night for the 2013 NHL season.
The NHL has also suggested an Apr. 5 trade deadline, moving the deadline back just over a month from last year’s deadline of Feb. 27. With a truncated season only beginning in January, the first week of April is the most likely option.
Over 200 players had signed overseas during the lockout, while others were assigned to their NHL clubs’ American Hockey League affiliates.
Over the past few days, players have made their way back to their respective teams, eager to get training camp started. With a significantly shortened season, the players know that there will be little time to shake off the rust.
Much like the 1994–95 lockout, it’s expected that teams will play a 48-game, inter-conference only schedule. Details have yet to be confirmed, but early reports indicate that each team will play 28 games within their own division—four times against two teams and five against the other two teams. Each team is expected to also play non-division teams a total of three times.
In a shortened 48-game schedule, each game will have that much more meaning and intensity.
While the NHL and the Players Association were able to kiss and make up long enough to come to an agreement, the same isn’t as easily said about the NHL, the players, and the fans.
The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle reported on Dec. 28 that fewer than 200 of the 100,000 Canadian season ticket holders had cancelled their season tickets.
So one can assume most Canadian fans welcome back the NHL with open arms, however, there are others who have grown tired of the league and it’s now predictable work stoppages.
And yet others have taken to social media to voice their displeasure with the lockout, some going as far as saying they won’t be coming back this time.
It may not be easy, but the NHL has its hands full repairing the damage it has caused to a fan base only seven years removed from its last lockout. But it is the intensity and excitement of the game that helped build hockey a huge fan base that will help gradually win the fans back as was seen after the last lockout.
Mitch Dyck is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who has been covering the Canucks for the last year. Follow him on Twitter @Mitchemdee
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