NEW YORK, N.Y. – The NHL is most likely to play a 48-game season after its new collective bargaining agreement is ratified.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press on Monday morning that hope for a 50-game schedule was already fading as the league and NHL Players’ Association continued to work towards finalizing the document their constituents will eventually vote on.
“It depends on ratification timeline for PA, but it’s looking more and more like 48 games is going to be the only option,” Daly said in an email.
The NHL’s Board of Governors is scheduled to gather in New York on Wednesday to hold a ratification vote. It was not yet clear when the NHLPA planned to open the ballot to its membership.
Both sides need to get majority support to adopt the tentative deal they reached early Sunday morning following a marathon 16-hour negotiating session. Even after announcing the tentative agreement around 6 a.m., they went right back to work on the language of the new pension plan, which ended up being the final major hurdle for them to cross in negotiations.
Even though a 50-game schedule would generate more revenue for both sides, the league figures it would need to start to start the season in the middle of next week to make it happen. That’s because the NHL is unwilling to see the Stanley Cup awarded in July.
A 48-game schedule was played following the 1994-95 lockout and that allowed for a balanced intraconference schedule for what was then a 26-team league.
It’s going to be a little more complicated this time around. The NHL 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 against two teams and four against the two others, according to a source.
On Sunday, the league has circulated a memo to teams telling them to be ready to play by Jan. 19. That is the date the shortened season is most likely to start.
Even though the ink had yet to run dry on the new CBA, teams started trying to make amends for the sport’s fourth work stoppage in 20 years. The Pittsburgh Penguins issued a statement from owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle in which they offered an apology to fans.
“There is nothing we can say to explain or excuse what has happened over the past four months,” it read.