The National Hockey League and the players' association this morning reached a tentative agreement to end a lockout that wiped out 625 regular season games and left fans and network executives fuming.
Capping a 16-hour round of heated negotiations, the two sides signed off on a provisional 10-year collective bargaining agreement that could have the NHL back in business by Jan. 15.
The deal, which closed today at around 5 a.m. EST, came after months of on-again, off-again talks, which began back in late June. The league's lockout effectively erased half of the scheduled games—including the crucial Jan. 1 Winter Classic and the entire slate of All-Star Weekend activities.
While pro hockey will return sometime in the next two weeks, certain procedures must be completed before the 30 NHL teams take the ice. Most importantly, the Nhlpa and the league owners must vote to ratify the new CBA.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman officially locked out the Nhlpa's 750 members on Sept. 15, 2012. The regular season was to have begun on Oct. 11. This was the third NHL lockout since Bettman took the helm in 1993.
While NBC Sports Network lost a good chunk of its 90-game NHL schedule, the return of hockey will be a huge shot in the arm for the channel formerly known as Versus. Last season, NHL telecasts scared up an average delivery of 600,000 viewers per game; by comparison, one of the network's highest rated programs in mid-December, a hunting show titled Elk Fever, drew just 147,000 viewers.
Broadcaster NBC and the cable net NBCSN last season generated some $150 million in NHL ad sales inventory, per Kantar Media estimates. Roughly half of those client dollars poured in during the NHL Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final.