NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League's Board of Governors voted unanimously Wednesday to ratify the new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement between the League and the National Hockey League Players' Association.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who serves as the Chairman of the Board of Governors, confirmed the unanimous ratification vote during a press conference held at the Westin Times Square.
"To the players, who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labor contracts; to our partners, who support the League financially and personally; and, most importantly, to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I am sorry," Commissioner 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.
"The National Hockey League has a responsibility to earn back your trust and support whether you watch one game or every game, and that effort begins today," Commissioner Bettman later added. "The players are ready to play their hearts out for you. The teams are preparing to welcome you back with open arms. The wait is just about over. Like all of you, we can't wait to drop the puck."
The new CBA will not be official until the NHLPA completes its ratification vote, which according to a Union spokesperson is expected to be Saturday. Commissioner Bettman said the 2012-13 regular-season schedule will be released "instantaneously" after the players' ratification vote is complete and the CBA is signed.
"There is no doubt we all love this game," Jacobs said. "Together our collective future is extremely bright. Our only interest now is to look ahead and focus on what this great game can provide to the best sports fans in the world."
The Board's ratification vote comes four days after representatives from the NHL and NHLPA spent 16 hours with a federal mediator in a New York City hotel hammering out the framework of a new CBA.
The NHL and NHLPA had been without a CBA since Sept. 16.
"Our fans are incredibly passionate about our game and were frustrated and disappointed about the fact that we weren't playing, and, frankly, they didn't care who was at fault, they wanted hockey back," Commissioner Bettman said. "I completely understand that and, as commissioner of the League, no matter what your view of the world in terms of how and why and whatever, it is my responsibility to them to try to make it right."
Commissioner Bettman said future Olympic participation by NHL players and possible realignment of teams would be looked at in the future. Those issues are not directly covered in the new CBA.
"Both issues are important to the players, the League and the clubs," Commissioner Bettman said. "Neither are bargaining chips -- they are really working together as partners, problem solving to get to the right place."
In issuing his apology, Commissioner Bettman confirmed the length of the new CBA (10 years) and said it should "stand the test of time with a system where all teams can be competitive and have a chance to make the playoffs, and even win the Stanley Cup."
Commissioner Bettman also said the negotiations took longer than anybody wanted and he is aware the length of time hurt many of the League's supporters in various ways.
"In the end, neither side got everything it wanted -- and everyone lost in the short term," Commissioner Bettman said. "But the NHL gained a long-term agreement that's good for players and good for teams and should guarantee the future success of NHL hockey for many years to come. It will help the game to grow, ensuring greater economic stability for all of our teams.
"Once the players ratify the Agreement, all the things that you love most about NHL hockey -- the speed, the intensity, the skill, the teamwork and the incredible passion -- will greet you once again," he added. "As I said, we know that no words of apology or explanation will soften the disappointment. I read the letters, I followed the tweets, I read the blogs -- we have a lot of work to do."