NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the National Hockey League lockout during a press conference at the Westin New York in Times Square.(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
NEW YORK (USA TODAY) - The NHL board of governors unanimously approved the league's 10-year collective-bargaining agreement with players, leaving the NHL Players' Association ratification as the only event needed for the 2012-13 season to start Jan. 19.
Commissioner Gary Bettman began his news conference by apologizing to players, sponsors and fans. He said he read blogs and tweets during the 113-day lockout and understood fans' frustration.
"It's my responsibility to them to make it right," he said.
Bettman said the fact that the deal is for 10 years will help.
"It guarantees that our attention from now on will stay where it belongs: on the ice," he said.
It's expected that the players will accept the deal by Saturday, allowing training camps to open Sunday. The commissioner said the 48-game schedule would be released as quickly as possible after the players' vote.
Bettman said that Olympic participation and realignment will be dealt with later. He also sidestepped questions about the possibility of some NHL players remaining in the Kontinental Hockey League once camps open.
The new deal, reached Sunday just before 5 a.m., ET with help of federal mediator Scot L. Beckenbaugh, allows for the two sides to split hockey-related revenue 50-50. In the previous CBA, players received 57%.
Bettman reviewed details of the deal Wednesday at the board of governors meeting,
The new deal also changes the individual contract structure, limiting players to no more than seven years unless they are re-signing with their team. Then, they are allowed an eighth season.
For the first time, teams can also share salary cap hits on a traded player. For example, if Montreal wanted to trade Scott Gomez, the Canadiens could agree to pay half of his salary and retain half of the cap hit. Another new feature is that players will be allowed to meet with potential suitors before the July 1 free agent signing period begins.
BY KEVIN ALLEN/USA TODAY