The NHL and the players’ association said they reached a tentative agreement early Sunday to end a nearly four-month-old lockout that threatened to wipe out the season.
A marathon negotiating session that lasted more than 16 hours, stretching from Saturday afternoon until just before dawn Sunday, produced a 10-year deal that still must be ratified by the players.
After the sides stayed mostly apart for two days, following late-night talks that turned sour, federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh worked virtually around the clock to get the sides back to the bargaining table.
This time it worked — on the 113th day of the work stoppage.
Time was clearly a factor, with the sides facing a deadline of Thursday or Friday to reach a deal that would allow for a 48-game season to start a week later. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had said the league could not allow a season of fewer than 48 games per team.
All games through January 14, along with the All-Star game, have been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule.
It is expected that teams will only play opponents within their conference this season.
Without an agreement, the NHL faced the embarrassment of losing a season due to a labour dispute for the second time, something that has never happened in another North American sports league.
The 2004-05 season was wiped out while the sides negotiated hockey’s first salary cap.