The National Hockey League's lockout is one step closer to being officially over, as the league owners voted unanimously today to ratify a 10-year collective bargaining agreement reached last weekend.
The NHL owners and the players' association reached the deal early Sunday following a 16-hour negotiating session.
The deal now needs to be ratified by the players' association by the end of the week, so that the NHL can avoiding shutting down an entire season for the second time in less than a decade.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said neither side got exactly what it wanted, but he called it a long-term agreement that is good for players and teams and provides greater economic stability for all teams.
Bettman began his statement with an apology to fans.
"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," Bettman said. "As commissioner of the NHL, 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."
There is no official schedule planned yet, but the league is planning a 48-game schedule that will start on January 19.