Bettman apologizes to fans for lockout
NEW YORK — Gary Bettman says he’s sorry.
The NHL commissioner has apologized to hockey fans for the lockout that delayed the start of the season by three months.
He says he knows the apology will not ease hard feelings that have built up over the past few months but he feels the fans deserve one.
The apology came during a news conference to announce that NHL owners have voted in favour of ratifying the new collective bargaining agreement with their players.
The two sides came to a tentative agreement to end the lockout early Sunday morning.
Bettman wouldn’t say specifically what the league would do to make it up to the fans.
He adds that as commissioner he is sometimes forced to make tough decisions that disappoint and occasionally anger players and fans.
The players aren’t expected to start their own ratification vote until Friday. It will be conducted electronically over two days and needs majority support from the roughly 740 union members to pass.
If all goes to plan, the process would be completed by Saturday and training camps would open around the league on Sunday.
The NHL is targeting a 48-game season beginning Jan. 19, which leaves no time for teams to squeeze in any exhibition games. The schedule is expected to be released in the coming days.
A 48-game season was played following the 1994-95 NHL lockout and that allowed for a balanced intraconference schedule in what was then a 26-team league.
It’s going to be a little more complicated this time around.
The league is planning to have teams play three games against the 10 opponents within the same conference but outside their division. They will then have an unbalanced schedule against division rivals, with five games coming against two teams and four against the two others, according to a source.
The CBA process will continue behind the scenes even after the season gets underway. The league and NHLPA have agreed to meet over 10 consecutive days in February to finish off a document that will total several hundred pages once it is finished.