It took them 113 days, but it’s over. The NHL Lockout is over, yes you can breathe that sigh of relief, and put down those pitchforks and torches, yes you, put it down. The NHL and the NHLPA finally reached a tentative agreement on a new CBA early Sunday morning.
It was 5:00 AM ET when finally a deal was agreed upon and hockey fans everywhere were abuzz of the great news they’ve been waiting for the past 5 months. It took both sides 16 hours and to be cooped up into one room to finally get down to business, and get a deal agreed upon. After 113 days of greed, battling, bickering and immaturity, both sides will have to look their best when season starts. For something that didn’t need to go this long and need to be this ugly, the NHL will need to make amends with the fans, players, and the low income concession workers at each and every NHL arena across the league.
As some may think it will be back to business as usual as fast as possible, but it is unlikely to be that way. Not with a packed down season and players who are coming back from Europe and will have to get back into regular NHL game form, it’s going to be a slow season to start. For fans, as much as you would like to say “Yeah I am boycotting the game” you all will be swimming back like spawning salmon, trust me. For small American markets, that’s hard for me to judge on that, but definitely danger lies in those markets. This was a embarrassing, unnecessary, and bloated lockout that went on for too long. The deal isn’t much different from the one that was blown sky-high on December 6th in New York which then put the season in jeopardy. It didn’t have to be this bad.
Terms of the deal are as followed: It will be a 10 year deal with both sides having the choice to opt out after eight years, so it guarantees peace between both sides till 2020. The owners got what they want which was 50-50 on revenue with $300 million in make-whole money to cover contracts that are signed already. The players have strengthened their pensions which are defined benefit plans with the majority of responsibility placed on the NHL. Pensions turned out to be a centerpiece of the deal and were finally agreed to in the early hours of the morning. The NHL will see term limits on player contracts for the first time. Players will be limited to seven year deals if they sign with another team, and eight years if they re-sign with their own club. There will be two compliance buyouts per team which will cause some serious player movement in the upcoming days. Teams will be able to spend up to $70.2 million this year, but the cap will drop to $64.3 in 2013-2014, which in my opinion the players lost on that, big time. The floor both years will be $44 million. The cap cannot drop below $64.3 in the upcoming years of the deal. Contract variance from year-to-year will be limited to 35%, and can never drop below 50% of the highest year of any deal.
There are still a number of issues that need to be agreed to, mostly non-deal breaker issues. The issues include Olympics, although I heard last night that NHL participation does seem likely. Realignment is also consigned to a future decision and won’t take effect this season. The deal also still needs to be ratified by both sides, so it could take a few days for all this to be officially settled and to be put in writing.
But this will all be done, and there will be hockey again. From sponsors pressuring, some owners playing a role, no one deserves a bigger round of a applause for Scot Beckenbaugh for making this all happen. He got both sides together at 1:15 PM at the player’s hotel, and never left until a deal was reached. He kept both sides going for 16 hours and one may think he held both sides at gun point, but I truly hope he didn’t.
So that’s it. It’s over. Fans, you got your wish, its back. NHL Hockey is back. Fans who say that it’s too late, were you a true hockey fan from the start? You can boycott the game all you want, but in the end, you’re going to come back, you will watch a game, you will buy a jersey, you will buy a shirt, you will buy team merchandise, not because you love your team, it’s because you love this game. For the fans who will stick it out, good on you. But right now, rejoice, celebrate, have a beer, and if you’re under aged, have a root beer, but it’s over! WE GOT HOCKEY!