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.
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."
email@example.com Twitter: @garylawless