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New York: The National Hockey League and locked out players reached a tentative agreement to end a bitter labour dispute yesterday and salvage a season that appeared to be slipping away.
The deal was announced jointly by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association (NHLPA) Executive Director Donald Fehr after a marathon 16-hour negotiation session that began on Saturday at the league’s Manhattan headquarters and ended in the early hours of yesterday morning.
NHL owners and the players must now ratify the new deal but no details were given on a start date to the new season or the number of games to be played.
“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 told reporters. “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.
“We have to go through a ratification process and the Board of Governors has to approve it from the League side and, obviously, the players have to approve it as well,” he added saying details on the new season could be made available later yesterday.
With half of the 2012-13 regular season already lost, the NHL had set a January 11 deadline for a new deal and is expected to stage a 48-to-50 game campaign.
The lockout, began in mid-September when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired with both sides at odds over how to split the NHL’s $3.3bn in revenue.
With talks unraveling and league on the verge of canceling the entire season, the 113-day lockout ended with the help of a US federal mediator who enticed the two parties back to the bargaining table for a final push to make a deal.
“On behalf of the FMCS, I want to extend our congratulations to both parties for their important accomplishment,” said Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H Cohen in a statement. “The negotiated agreement represents the successful culmination of a long and difficult road in which the parties ultimately were able to reach mutually acceptable solutions to a wide variety of contentious subjects of bargaining.
“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.
“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.”
With the tentative agreement in place, players playing in European leagues must immediately join their NHL clubs for an abbreviated training camp. REUTERS