NHL: League, players reach deal to end lockout

Sun Jan 6, 2013 5:21pm EST
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - The National Hockey League (NHL) and locked-out players reached a tentative agreement on Sunday to end a costly labor dispute and salvage a condensed season that was days away from being canceled entirely.

The deal was announced jointly by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) Executive Director Donald Fehr following a marathon 16-hour negotiation session that began on Saturday at a Manhattan hotel.

"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 told reporters.

"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."

Bettman said details on the upcoming season could be released later on Sunday and some reports suggest a 50-game season, down from the usual 82 games, could begin January 15.

News of the tentative deal came just days ahead of the NHL's self-imposed January 11 deadline to reach an agreement or risk losing a season that was originally due to begin last October.

With talks unraveling and the NHL on the verge of canceling the entire season, the 113-day lockout ended with the help of a U.S. federal mediator who enticed the two parties back to the bargaining table for a final push to make a deal.

The return of the NHL created an instant buzz across hockey mad Canada, with even Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper greeting the news with relief.   Continued...

National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman gestures in front of NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (L) as he describes negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) regarding the difficulties of their current labor talks in New York, December 6, 2012. NHLPA said the league rejected its latest offer on Thursday as labor talks aimed at ending the lockout unexpectedly broke off on Thursday. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson