NHL, players reach deal; Toews calls pact ‘bittersweet’
By Mark Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org January 6, 2013 7:18AM
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman arrives for collective bargaining talks in Toronto on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)
Updated: March 12, 2013 2:16PM
The NHL lockout is finally ending.
“I’m really happy that this is over,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “...I’m excited to play hockey again although it’s bittersweet because a lot of damage was done to our game. As players, we need to keep showing our fans we care. We might have a long road ahead of us there, but for now it’s great to know we’ll be back on the ice very soon.”
Toews said players who took part in the bargaining deserve much of the credit because they “worked very hard to get a deal done.”
The Sun-Times has learned that Patrick Kane is in the process of making his way back to Chicago from Switzerland, where he was playing for EHC-Biel during the lockout.
NHL players are expecting a three- or four-day mini camp and no exhibition games before the shortened season starts.
After a 16-hour marathon bargaining session at the Sofitel Hotel in New York on Saturday that ran deep into Sunday morning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL union chief Don Fehr announced that the two sides had tentatively agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement, ending the 113-day lockout.
“Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” Bettman told reporters in New York early Sunday morning. “We have to dot a lot of I’s and cross a lot of T’s. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework has been agreed upon.”
Bettman said more details would be announced later in the day. But the season is expected to be either 50 or 48 games, with all games being played against conference opponents. The season is expected to begin by Jan. 19.
“Any process like this in the system we have is difficult. It can be long,” Fehr said. “I’ve said repeatedly throughout this process that, somebody would say, ‘What do you see ahead?’ And, the answer was, ‘You get up tomorrow and you try to find a way to do it and you keep doing that until you find a way to succeed. As Gary has just indicated, we have the framework of a deal.”
Fehr said he hoped all the legal wrangling and final approvals will take place “fairly rapidly.”
“Hopefully in just a very few days, the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, and not just the two of us,” Fehr said.
Contributing: Adam Jahns