NHL, NHLPA Reach Agreement On Framework For New Collective Bargaining Agreement

LOCKOUT ENDING: Includes comments from Los Angeles Kings left wing Kyle Clifford.

NHL logo courtesy National Hockey League.
NHLPA logo courtesy National Hockey
League Players Association.
LOS ANGELES AND ONTARIO, CA — Shortly after 2:00 Pacific time on Sunday morning (January 6), the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players Association reached an agreement on a framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement after a marathon bargaining session that exceeded 16 hours.

“We have reached an agreement on a framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told media gathered in New York. “We’ve got to dot a lot of ‘I’s’ and cross a lot of ‘T’s.’ There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”

“We have to go through a ratification process,” Bettman added. “The Board of Governors has to approve it from the league side. Obviously, the players have to approve it as well.”

“As Gary just indicated, we have the framework of a deal,” NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said during the same impromptu media briefing. “We have to do the legal work, we have to do the constituent communication work, and from my viewpoint, and I’m sure from Gary’s too, we have to let them know the details before we tell all of you [the media]. Having said that, hopefully, we’re at a place where all those things will proceed fairly rapidly, and with some dispatch. We’ll get back to what we call ‘business as usual’ just as fast as we can.”

Although mediation produced little earlier in the process, it appears that it played a key role during the final stages of the negotiations.

“On behalf of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, I want to extend our congratulations to both parties for their important accomplishment,” FMCS Director George H. Cohen said in a statement. “The negotiated agreement represents the successful culmination of a long and difficult road in which the parties ultimately were able to reach mutually acceptable solutions to a wide variety of contentious subjects of bargaining.”

“Of course, the agreement will pave the way for the professional players to return to the ice, and for the owners to resume their business operations,” Cohen added. “But the good news extends beyond the parties directly involved; fans throughout North America will have the opportunity to return to a favorite pastime, and thousands of working men and women and small businesses will no longer be deprived of their livelihoods. Last, but surely not least, I want to recognize the extraordinary contribution that my colleague, Scot Beckenbaugh, Deputy Director for Mediation Services, made in providing assistance of the highest caliber to the parties throughout the most critical periods in the negotiations.”

“I would be remiss if we didn’t thank Scot Beckenbaugh, the Deputy Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in the United States, for his assistance in the mediation process,” said Bettman.

Bettman also acknowledged his adversary.

“I want to thank Don Fehr, because he, and the players association, as well as the people who work with me at the league, went through a long, tough period, and we still have more work to do,” Bettman noted. “But it’s good to be at this point.”

Fehr reflected on the long journey both sides took to reach their final destination.

“Any process like this, in the system that we have, is difficult,” he stressed. “It can be long. I’ve said repeatedly, throughout this process, somebody would say, ‘what do you see ahead?’ The answer was, you get up tomorrow, and try to find a way to do it, and you keep doing that until you find a way to succeed.”

Reports indicate that the new CBA is a ten-year deal, with a mutual opt-out after eight years. It will limit contracts to seven years, or eight for players re-signing with their teams. The new deal will also have a $64.3 million salary cap with a $44 million salary floor in 2013-14 (the NHL had proposed a $60 million cap), and will have a 35 percent contract variance from year-to-year. However, the lowest-paid season for any multi-year contract cannot be less than 50 percent of the highest-paid season.

Some minor issues are still being discussed.

Both the NHL Board of Governors and the players must ratify the deal before training camps can open, and before games can be played.

Several rumors are floating around stating that the NHL has a 50 or 52-game schedule planned. In any case, the league has stated that least 48 games will be played, and reports indicate that all games with be played within conferences.

The NHL lockout is now in its 113th day.

Shortly after the news broke, Los Angeles Kings right wing and team captain Dustin Brown was obviously relieved, and he, along with right wing and Kings player representative Kevin Westgarth , defenseman Alec Martinez, and forward Trevor Lewis posted their feelings on Twitter (see graphics above).

Kings President/Business Operations Luc Robitaille released the following statement, apparently aimed primarily at season seat holders:

We are happy to announce that the NHL and the NHLPA have reached an agreement on the framework for a new ten-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. While we are pleased to announce this news, the deal still needs to be finalized, and there are many details we are working out regarding your tickets, the new schedule, resumption of payments, ticket printing and delivery. Please let us gather this information and we will have more detailed information for you soon.

We thank you for your support and patience, and ask that you defer any incoming inquiries until you receive this next communication, he added. We are working diligently to compile all information that will answer most of your questions. Again, we will communicate with you as soon as we have further information.

We look forward to seeing you at Staples Center as the Kings raise the Stanley Cup Championship banner and begin our title defense of the 2012 Stanley Cup!

About five hours prior to the NHL/NHLPA announcement, fresh off a 2-1 shootout victory over the Alaska Aces at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, Kings left wing Kyle Clifford, who is playing for the ECHL’s Ontario Reign (the Kings’ ECHL affiliate) during the lockout, said that there was finally a real reason for optimism.

“I just read a report [on CBA negotiations from Westgarth],” said Clifford. “It seems like both sides are starting to move, but there’s still some separation there. I’m optimistic, and I’m hoping we get something done here, and we get going. We’ve got a great team this year.”

“Early on, I was keeping up with what was going on, and it just seemed like [NHL owners] were dangling hope in front of us, only to crush it,” added Clifford. “But now, I’m starting to keep [myself] updated. I’ve been on the [NHLPA conference calls]. There’s pressure on both sides to get something done here, and I think [both sides] want to get [back to] playing.”

With a new NHL season apparently coming soon, Clifford indicated that his time with the Reign will help him to hit the ground running (or should that be “hit the ice skating?”) once the NHL returns to the ice.

“I’ve been ready for five months,” Clifford said with a grin. “But, conditioning-wise, we play [just] three lines here. I’m dying out there in the third period, so it’s great [for the conditioning] aspect, and to work on my game. I feel pretty confident going into [a potential NHL] season, so I hope we get something done.”

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