NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman secured unanimous ownership support for the pending labor deal, then apologized to everyone hurt by the long lockout and said he isn’t going anywhere.
The league’s board of governors met in a Manhattan hotel Wednesday and overwhelmingly approved the agreement that was reached early Sunday on the 113th day of the lockout.
Bettman felt the full brunt of anger, especially from fans, during the four-month dispute that kept hockey off the ice. But he was contrite in announcing the latest step by the owners. He said he wants to look forward and not back at the mess created by the work stoppage.
“Most importantly to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I am sorry,” Bettman said. “I know that an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months, but I owe you an apology nevertheless.
“As commissioner of the National Hockey League it sometimes falls upon me to make tough decisions that disappoint and occasionally anger players and fans. This was a long and extremely difficult negotiation — one that took a lot longer than anybody wanted.”
In his nearly 20 years as commissioner, Bettman has presided over three lockouts. One caused the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, another led to a 48-game season in 1995 — much like is expected for this season.
The latest lockout wiped out 510 games. Overall, 2,208 games have been lost by labor disputes during his tenure. But Bettman was quick to call any speculation he might consider stepping down from his post as “unfounded.”
Players are expected to vote on the deal Friday and Saturday. If a majority of the more than 700 members in good standing agree to the terms, training camps can open Sunday. A 48-game season is likely to begin Jan. 19.