TORONTO – The NHL (search) lockout that canceled last season came to an end Friday when the owners of the league's 30 teams unanimously approved a labor deal that clears the way for play to resume in the fall.
"Today our board of governors gave it's unanimous approval to a collective bargaining agreement that signals a new era for our league," commissioner Gary Bettman (search) said at a news conference. "An era of economic stability for our franchises, an era of heightened competitive balance for our players, an era of unparalled excitement for our fans."
It also begins the era of the salary cap (search) — the very thing the union vowed not to accept when the lockout began. But a majority of players supported the six-year agreement in balloting Thursday, with 464 of 532 (87 percent) voting in favor.
Under the new deal, players are guaranteed to receive 54 percent of league-wide revenues — projected to be between $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion next season. A portion of every player's salary will be held in escrow if it is determined that revenues are smaller, resulting in players receiving more than 54 percent.
Approval by the league's board governors Friday brings labor peace at last to the league, which has already lost one season, and turns the focus back to the ice.
All players that had existing contracts after last season, will have those deals cut by 24 percent.
A six-day window will begin Saturday, allowing teams to buy out signed players and not have those dollars count against their cap for next season.
With salaries and revenues directly linked, players and owners will need to be partners now more than ever to grow the game.