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Players' turn to put stamp on CBA

NHL governors approve deal, Bettman issues blanket apology

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NEW YORK -- The NHL took one step closer to finally putting its product back on ice with the unanimous ratification of a new CBA.

The league's board of governors held an information session at a Manhattan hotel on Wednesday and then voted, with all 30 clubs in favour of ratification.

Just the facts

NHL owners ratified a new collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday. Here are some key dates and figures as the NHL season is on the cusp of opening:

  • Ratification: The owners unanimously ratified the CBA on Wednesday with all 30 teams voting in favour. Some 740 players will begin their ratification process today and the hope is it will be concluded by Friday.
  • Training camp: If the players ratify the CBA, training camps will open Sunday.
  • Opening night: A 48-game schedule has been engineered by the NHL, with Jan. 19 slated as the opening date. The Winnipeg Jets are scheduled to host the Ottawa Senators.
  • Trade deadline: No official date has been released but it's understood the deadline will fall somewhere between April 3-5.
  • The end: TV broadcasters have been told to expect the conclusion of the Stanley Cup and the hockey season by the end of June.
  • The draft: The NHL entry draft will be held in Newark, N.J., and is currently scheduled for June 28-29 but could be moved back.
  • Free agency: July 5 is the date being discussed by the league right now for the beginning of free agency.
  • Realignment: Not yet. The Winnipeg Jets will spend at least one more season in the Eastern Conference but the league said on Wednesday it will move to reopen those discussions in short order.

Jets owner Mark Chipman cast his vote on the CBA and then wanted to address the fans of Winnipeg.

"Thank you for hanging in with us and thank you for the support our organization and I have received personally over the last couple of months," said Chipman, accompanied in New York by Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Thomson Reuters executive Patrick Phillips. "The patience and the support is going to be rewarded now."

The process is now in the hands of the players and they are expected to conclude a league-wide vote of some 740 players by the weekend.

Should the players vote to ratify the agreement, a new season will begin almost immediately. Training camps will open as soon as Sunday and the season is scheduled to kick off on Jan. 19.

Commissioner Gary Bettman held a short press conference following the vote and began with a personal statement.

"To the players who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labour contracts, to our partners who support the league financially and personally, and most importantly to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I'm sorry," said Bettman. "I know that an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months but I owe you an apology nevertheless."

Bettman said the short-term pain will hopefully result in a better future for all NHL teams.

"This was a long and extremely difficult negotiation. One that took a lot longer than anybody wanted. I know it caused frustration, disappointment and even suffering to a lot of people who have supported the National Hockey League in many different ways," he said. "In the end neither side got everything it wanted and everyone lost in the short term," he said. "But the NHL gained a long-term agreement that's good for players and good for teams, and should guarantee the future success of NHL hockey for many years to come. It will help the game to grow, ensuring greater economic stability for all of our teams."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2013 D1

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