One-hundred-nineteen days in the making, the NHL and its players have finally signed a new collective bargaining agreement. Now, the 30 clubs are about to embark on a 99-day regular-season sprint to the playoffs.
After reaching an agreement in principle on Jan. 6, the owners on Jan. 9 unanimously approved the 10-year CBA, which both sides can opt out of after eight. For their part, the players concluded their electronic vote on Jan. 12, evidently by a 667 to 12 count against (there were 21 abstentions). The sides then agreed to a required memorandum of understanding on Saturday night that finally puts the lockout on ice.
The signing of the MOU enabled the league to officially release its all intra-conference, 48-game regular-season schedule and open up formal training camps on Sunday, Jan. 13. All told, 720 contests will be played from Jan. 19 through April 27-- both of those dates will see 26 of the 30 clubs in action. There will be at least one game every night of the regular season.
Whereas the 2004-05 campaign was wiped out entirely by a lockout, this one forced the cancellation of 510 regular-season games. The Winter Classic and the All-Star Game weekend festivities were also casualties of the just-settled labor dispute.
Teams will play 18 games within their division: four games (two home and two away) against two of the teams in the division; five games (three home and two away) against another team in the division; and five games (two home and three away) against the remaining divisional opponent. Clubs also will play three games against each of the 10 remaining non-divisional opponents in their conference.
The puck drops on the post-season on April 20, with June 28 the latest possible date to conclude the Stanley Cup Final. In 1994-95 when a lockout also reduced the regular-season from 80 games to 48, the New Jersey Devils became champions by sweeping the Detroit Red Wings on June 24.
For openers, the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, who topped the Devils in six games last June, will raise their banner at 3 p.m. (ET) against the Chicago Black Hawks before audiences on NBC in the U.S. and CBC in Canada. The Peacock will then feature a Keystone State clash between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers after the Kings unfurl their celebratory flag.
Fans north of the border can tune in an opening day tripleheader on CBC: at 3 p.m. the Ottawa Senators travel to the Winnipeg Jets, followed by an Original Six encounter between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens at 7 p.m. French-language services RDS will also televise the Leafs versus Les Habitants. The CBC nightcap pits the Anaheim Ducks versus the Vancouver Canucks at 10 p.m.
NBC is back at it on Sunday Jan. 20 with Philadelphia-Buffalo at 12:30 p.m., before corporate linemate NBC Sports Network jumps over the boards for the first time at 10 p.m. with Chicago-Phoenix. That contest will mark the first of four consecutive nights of game coverage on the national cable service, which, together with NBC, is in the second of a 10-year, $2 billion rights deal.
Canada's TSN will become the last of the NHL’s national carriers in North America to get in the game in 2013, when it showcases a Jan. 22 doubleheader: Winnipeg at Washington at 7 p.m. and San Jose visiting Edmonton at 9:30 p.m.