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HOCKEY IS BACK

Hockey is back, and it took nearly four months and one long night to get the game back on the ice.
With the season on the line, the NHL and the players’ association agreed on a tentative pact to end a 113-day lockout and save what was left of a fractured schedule.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Donald Fehr ceased being adversaries and announced the deal while standing side by side near a wall toward the back of the negotiating room
All schedule issues, including the length of the season, still need to be worked out. The NHL has models for 50- and 48-game seasons.
The original estimate was regular-season games could begin about eight days after a deal was reached. It is believed that all games will be played within the two respective conferences, but that also hasn’t been decided.
The players have been locked out since Sept. 16, the day after the previous agreement expired. That deal came after an extended lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.
Under the new CBA, free-agent contracts will have a maximum length of 7 years, but clubs can go to eight years to re-sign their own players. Each side can opt out of the deal after eight years.
The players’ share of hockey-related income, a total that reached a record $3.3 billion last season, will drop from 57% to a 50-50 split. The salary cap for the upcoming season will be $70.2 million and will then go down to $64.3 million in the 2013-14 season.
All clubs must have a minimum payroll of $44 million.
The league had wanted next season’s cap to fall to $60 million, but agreed to an upper limit of $64.3 – the same amount as last season.
Inside individual player contracts, the salary can’t vary more than 35% year to year, and the final year can’t be more than 50% of the highest year.
A decision on whether NHL players will participate in the 2014 Olympics will be made apart from the CBA. While it is expected that players will take part, the IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation will have discussions with the league and the union before the matter is settled.