Ending a bitter dispute NHL shall return

Jan 7, 2013 7:16 AM

The writing vacation for GamingToday hockey analyst Nick Pellegrino is over. There will be an NHL season after all.

After 16 hours of tense talks in Manhattan, the NHL and its players finally achieved their elusive deal early Sunday morning, finding a way to restart a sport desperate to regain momentum and boost its prominence.

Ending a bitter dispute that wiped out a large part of the hockey season for the third time in less than two decades, the league and its union agreed to the framework of a 10-year labor contract that will allow a delayed schedule to start later this month.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr both appeared drained, wearing sweaters and not neckties, when they stood side by side at the hotel and announced labor peace.

Lawyers will spend the next few days drafting a memorandum of agreement. Once signed, we’ll find out when the season starts and how many games it lasts until the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The stoppage led to the cancellation of at least 480 games - the exact length of the curtailed schedule hasn’t been determined – bringing the total of lost regular-season games to a minimum 2,178 during three lockouts under Bettman.

The agreement, which replaces the deal that expired Sept. 15, must be ratified by the 30 team owners and approximately 740 players.

“It was a battle,” said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, a key member of the union’s bargaining team. “Players obviously would rather not have been here, but our focus now is to give the fans whatever it is – 48 games, 50 games – the most exciting season we can.”