Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tentative deal agreed upon for a new CBA

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: January 6, 2012| Contact  |

It took a nearly three-and-a-half month, 113-day lockout, several marathon bargaining sessions, and coming within reach of a second cancelled season in as many negotiations for an agreement on a new CBA to be reached. The sides negotiated for 16+ hours, starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and coming to an agreement at around 4 a.m on Sunday.

The agreement, which still isn't 100-percent complete, is a ten-year agreement with the option to 'opt-out after eight seasons. The sides hope the length of the new CBA will provide much needed stability to a league that is prone to lockouts, and game cancellations. 

When the sides met on Saturday, there were still some outstanding issues separating them, including: second-year cap, and pension. The sides worked continuously, and were able to find enough common ground to meet with the media early Sunday morning and announce a tentative agreement. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union leader Don Fehr emerged with the following words.

"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," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "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. We have to go through a ratification process and the Board of Governors has to approve it from the League side and, obviously, the players have to approve it as well. We are not in a position to give you information right now about schedule, when we are starting. It's early in the morning and we have been at this all day and all night, obviously. But, we will be back to you very shortly, hopefully, later today with more information in that regard."
Union leader Donald Fehr indicated that details needed to be resolved, and passed on to members of both parties to be approved, but expressed his readiness for getting the game back on the ice.
"As Gary just indicated, we have the framework of a deal. We have to do the legal work and we have to do the constituent-communication work. At least, from my [standpoint], and I'm sure Gary's too, we need to let them know the details before we tell all of you. Having said that, hopefully, we're at a place where all those things will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch and we'll get back to what we used to call business as usual as fast as we can."

Talks were progressing at a steady rate last week, but turned sour when the players accused the NHL of changing the language of hockey-related revenue (HRR). The union re-armed themselves with the threat of disclaimer of interest on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT, and some claim this pressured the league to return to negotiating. Another factor in getting the sides back together was the persistance of federal mediator Scot L. Breckenbraugh, who worked for 13+ hours on Friday, meeting with both sides and trying to find some common ground.
"I want to recognize the extraordinary contribution that my colleague, Scot Beckenbaugh, Deputy Director for Mediation Services, made in providing herculean assistance of the highest caliber to the parties throughout the most critical periods in the negotiations," FMCS Director George Cohen said as part of a statement.
Both sides, who have yet to formally agree to the new CBA, are expected to approve the deal in the coming days. Training camp would start soon after, and the plan is to play as many as 50 games starting on January 15. If ratification takes longer than expected, the season will likely consist of a 48-game, in-conference schedule. The season will likely go through the end of April, with playoffs finishing up at the end of June, though that has yet to be confirmed, awaiting approval of the proposed CBA.

Players are expected to start making their returns to North America immediately in order to begin preparation for training camp, and the season soon after.

Blues' owner Tom Stillman was one of many NHL owners that reached out to fans, apologizing for what some call the most embarrassing CBA negotiation in the history of sports.

"As you may know, the NHL and the Players’ Association have reached a tentative agreement on a new CBA. It looks like your St. Louis Blues will soon return to the ice.

As we prepare for the season opener, I want to apologize to all Blues fans, especially our season ticket holders, suite holders, and sponsors. We share in your disappointment and frustration about the lockout and the lack of Blues hockey over the past three months. As you can imagine, the last thing our new ownership group wanted in our first year was a lockout and no Blues hockey. Everyone in the organization -- the players, hockey management, the front office – would have preferred to start the season on time. 

Moving forward, our aim is to make up for lost time and to earn your continued support. As I said last May, we are firmly committed to the Blues and to ensuring the franchise’s long-term success here in St. Louis. With the lockout behind us, we reaffirm that commitment. But we know we cannot succeed without you, and we hope you will continue to support us at this critical time.

As you know, we have an exciting season ahead of us. The Blues, led by GM of the Year Doug Armstrong and Coach of the Year Ken Hitchcock, are coming off one of the best campaigns in franchise history and are widely viewed as one of the top teams in the NHL. The compressed season will be intensely competitive, with each game crucial in the race for the playoffs. We can’t wait to get started, and we sincerely hope you will be there with us.

Once again, I am sorry for the delay in starting the season. Thank you for your patience and support during the last few months. We hope to see you at a Blues game soon."

The Blues, under Jack Adams Award-winning coach Ken Hitchcock are awaiting the green light for training camp to begin. Camp could begin as early as Wednesday.