NHL Players Approve Agreement as Hockey Season Set to Start

The National Hockey League’s 700-player union approved a new collective bargaining agreement, allowing a lockout-shortened season to begin Jan. 19.

The league and the National Hockey League Players’ Association today signed a Memorandum of Understanding which reflects the terms of a 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, the longest in NHL history, and ends the lockout.

Training camps will open tomorrow and teams will play a 48-game regular-season schedule, the league said in a statement.

The agreement calls for the owners and players to split Hockey Related Revenues equally. It also includes terms that limit the length of individual player contracts to seven years or eight when a team is re-signing its own player and regulates the compensation structure, year-to-year variability and defining minimum value.

The CBA also features a new defined benefit pension plan for the players and enhanced revenue-sharing among the Clubs.

The players approved the agreement three days after the NHL’s Board of Governors voted in favor of the pact during a Jan. 9 meeting in New York.

The world’s top professional hockey league and its players’ union agreed on the contract’s framework Jan. 6, ending the shutdown that began Sept. 16 and forced the cancellation of 625 games, or 51 percent of the original schedule with each team playing 82 games.

The lockout also forced the cancellation of this year’s outdoor Winter Classic game on New Year’s Day and the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.

Players’ Share

The NHL, which had $3.3 billion in revenue last season, gave up about $1 billion to get the 10-year deal that reduced the players’ share of the earnings to 50 percent, the New York Times reported, without saying where it got the information.

The work stoppage was the second time in the last seven seasons that owners shut the league down following the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement.

The previous lockout resulted in the loss of the 2004-05 season, the only time a complete schedule of one of North America’s four major pro sports leagues was wiped out by a labor dispute. It also was the first year since 1919 that the Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded.

In the 1994-95 season, a lockout ended Jan. 11 and a 48-game schedule began on Jan. 20.

Split Revenue

The latest dispute was focused on how players and owners would split revenue that rose 50 percent by last season from $2.2 billion in 2003-04. Under the previous agreement, players received 57 percent, or $1.9 billion, of league revenue.

The negotiations also involved length of player contracts and funding of the union’s pension plan.

The collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2021-22 season, with both sides having the right to opt out after eight years, the Associated Press said.

Before the start of the 2011-12 season, the average NHL player salary was $2.4 million, up from about $1.5 million at the start of the 2005-06 season.

In comparison, National Basketball Association players made an average of $5.15 million, the highest among North America’s four major sports leagues, for 2011-12. The average salary for a National Football League player was $1.9 million, the lowest of the four leagues, with Major League Baseball’s $3.3 million average salary ranking second behind the NBA.

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