It took longer than anyone anticipated, but the NHL is officially back in business. The league's owners ratified the new collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday, leaving only the players' signatures to go before they can report to camp on Sunday, according to the Star Tribune's Michael Russo:
From an #nhl owners' perspective, new CBA has been ratified. Players should be complete Saturday. Camp opens Sunday. 6-day camp— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) January 9, 2013
Though the ratification process is mostly just a mere formality for the already-agreed upon deal, it's undoubtedly comforting to hockey fans that the owners wasted little time. The deal is now in the hands of the players, and they should ratify the agreement on Saturday, as Russo states.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, the NHL and NHLPA tentatively agreed to end the lockout—one that lasted 113 days, wiped plenty of games off the schedule and frustrated fans across the world—when the two sides reached a middle ground on contentious sticking points, per the Washington Post's Katie Carrera.
The agreement calls for a truncated 48-game 2012-13 NHL season, which will commence on Jan. 19 after the players have a six-day training camp period. It also calls for a $64.3 million salary cap and floor of $44 million (per Carrera), which was critical to the players' cause to avoid salary rollbacks this season.
More than anything, though, the deal calls for a return of the NHL. The league already lost a drove of fans as a result of the 2004-05 lockout and was on the verge of canceling its second season in nine years without an agreement.
Ratifying the deal is ultimately a formality for the owners and players, but it signifies an end to this ugly mess for fans everywhere.