The NHL’s Board of Governors gave unanimous approval Wednesday to the collective bargaining agreement it had tentatively reached with the players’ association.
The next step will be for players to ratify the deal. That electronic voting process is expected to begin on Friday and conclude on Saturday, with players also approving the deal.
That would allow the NHL to officially end the lockout and permit training camps to open on Sunday. As soon as the lockout is officially lifted, the league is set to release a full regular-season schedule in which each team will play 48 games within their respective conferences. The season is scheduled to start on Jan. 19.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking at a news conference in New York, indicated he recognized the damage done to the league during the lockout.
“To our players, our partners and our fans, I am sorry,” he said. “I read the letters. I followed the tweets. I read the blogs. We have a lot of work to do to gain back your support.”
Toward that end, he said the league will initiate “outreaches, campaigns and efforts” to woo fans back.
Bettman also said that as soon as the players’ union ratifies the deal and both sides sign it — which is expected to occur on Saturday — the NHL will release its schedule, which he said is still going through a lot of changes.
Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins and chairman of the board of governors, issued a statement praising Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and the players.
“This great game has been gone for far too long, and for that we are truly sorry,” Jacobs said.
“Together our collective future is extremely bright. Our only interest now is to look ahead and to focus on what this great game can provide to the best sports fans in the world.”
The Kings, as previously reported, will raise their Stanley Cup banner and get their championship rings before an afternoon game at Staples Center on Jan. 19. Their opponent will be the Chicago Blackhawks.
Once schedules are released, teams will announce their ticket sales policies.
The Kings are scheduled to hold a news conference on Thursday at Staples Center to allow club executives to make their first public comments on the lockout and the team’s plans for the future. It is to be televised on FOX Sports West and streamed live on FOXSportsWest.com at 4 p.m.
Tim Leiweke of parent company AEG, General Manager Dean Lombardi, Coach Darryl Sutter and Business Operations President Luc Robitaille are expected to attend the event.
Though their schedule hasn’t been released, the Ducks are expected to open their season on the road.
One more Kings-related note: Center Anze Kopitar is on his way back to Los Angeles for additional tests on his right knee, which he sprained Saturday while playing in Sweden.
He said via text message early Wednesday that it didn’t feel too bad and that he is hoping to be back soon. However, he can’t be examined by team doctors until the lockout is over.
The same applies to defenseman Willie Mitchell, who tweaked his knee during the lockout. His injury wasn’t considered serious but he will undergo exams when players once again can see their team doctors.