NHL: Owners and players agree provisional CBA

6 January 2013 | Posted in SportsPro Blog | By Michael Long | Contact the author

NHL: Owners and players agree provisional CBA

The National Hockey League (NHL) and its Players' Association reached a tentative agreement in the early hours of Sunday morning that is likely to spell the end of a 113-day lockout.

The new Central Bargaining Agreement (CBA), reached in a Manhattan hotel, must now be formerly approved by both parties.

"After a marathon 16-plus hour negotiating session at the Sofitel Hotel that began Saturday afternoon, the sides announced an agreement in principle shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday," the league said in a statement.

Under-pressure NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (above), who has overseen three work stoppages in his 20-year tenure in the role, had set a deadline of 11th January for a deal to be struck if the 2012/13 season was to be salvaged.

Although a start date for the season has not been set and the number of games has yet to be announced, reports suggest the season could see each team play a minimum of 48 games, with a full post-season schedule of Stanley Cup Play-offs to follow. More details regarding the schedule are expected later on Sunday.

"We have to dot a lot of I's and cross a lot of T's,” Bettman told reporters. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework has been agreed upon.”

Perhaps the most telling feature of the new CBA is a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue. The last CBA ended with players receiving a 57 per cent slice of the US$3.3 billion pie and while team owners had wanted to lower the player's share of future revenues to 43 per cent, the agreed decrease represents a significant victory for the 30 team bosses.

The framework for the new deal, which runs for ten years but includes an opt-out option after eight, also calls for a seven-year cap on individual contracts for free agents, with salaries capped at US$60 million in the first year. The salary floor will be lowered to US$44 million.

In the second year of the deal, covering the 2013/14 season, the upper limit will be US$64.3 million, while the floor will remain the same.

Contract salary variance is capped at 35 per cent year-on-year, while the final year of the contract can't vary more than 50 per cent of the highest-salaried year.

The new agreement brings to an end a saga that has drawn on since 15th September. A total of 526 scheduled games - around 43 per cent of the season – were lost to the work stoppage between the slated start of the regular season on 11th October and 30th December.

Pressure had been steadily increasing on both parties to avoid a repeat of the 2004/05 season, which was lost entirely to a work stoppage.

On announcing the agreement alongside Bettman, Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), said: “We have to do the legal work and we have to do the constituent-communication work. At least, from my [standpoint], and I'm sure Gary's too, we need to let them know the details before we tell all of you."

"Having said that, hopefully, we're at a place where all those things will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch and we'll get back to what we used to call business as usual as fast as we can."

The big question now is how the fans, who often feel overlooked during lockouts, will react following the resolution of the latest labour dispute.

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