The NHL's 30-member Board of Governors voted unanimously Wednesday to ratify a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement.
The next step is ratification by a majority of the 700-plus members of the NHL Players Association, which is voting electronically Friday and Saturday on a 26-page memorandum of understanding. If that is approved on Saturday, as expected, training camps will open on Sunday and a 48-game, intra-conference schedule will begin on Jan. 19.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the schedule, which still is being adjusted according to arena availability, will be released immediately upon full ratification.
"This is a good deal, a fair deal," Bettman said he told the owners before a news conference in Manhattan. "In the end, neither side got everything they wanted and everyone lost in the short term."
He began by apologizing to players, sponsors and fans for the 113-day lockout. "I'm sorry," he said. "I know that an explanation or apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months. But I owe you an apology nevertheless."
During the months of negotiations, Bettman said, "I read the letters, I followed the tweets. I read the blogs. We have a lot of work to do. That effort begins today."
He said the league was preparing "outreaches" and "campaigns" to win back fans that would be unveiled soon. "I think the prevailing [message] was our fans are incredibly passionate and were frustrated and disappointed, and frankly, they didn't care who was at fault, they wanted hockey back . . . It's my responsibility to them to try and make it right."
Bettman said discussions will be scheduled about participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia and league realignment