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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

What's Lost, What's Left for the NHL

LOS ANGELES -- The NHL players and owners have reached a settlement. That much is easy to understand. But what this means to those who follow the NHL is a lot more complicated. Here are some of the questions to which you might want answers.


Question: The players have until noon Friday to ratify or reject the agreement. Which will it be?


Answer: Although not all players are in favor, the union is expected to vote for ratification. All it will take is a simple majority of the 700-plus union members. "I'm sure nobody's ecstatic,'' said Ted Donato, the Boston Bruins' assistant player representative. "(But) guys are happy to be playing hockey again.''


Q: How will this season be different?


A: Teams probably will be scheduled to play 48 games over 101 days instead of 84 games over 190, but there will be a full four rounds of playoffs ending before July 1. The seventh game of last season's Stanley Cup finals was played June 14. The All-Star game, scheduled for Jan. 21 at San Jose, has been canceled.


Q: When will the games begin?


A: Possibly as soon as Jan. 20. The NHL will release the schedule Friday.


Q: What will teams' schedules be like?


A: To make it easier, and less expensive, for teams to negotiate their compact schedules, they will play games only against conference rivals in the regular season.


Q: Who won the lockout?


A: Certainly not the fans, who, in most cities, will be required to pay full price for what is expected -- at least for the first few weeks -- to be sub-par hockey. Edmonton has slashed prices on 4,000 seats, but other teams are not racing to duplicate the gesture.


As for the players and owners, neither side left the table gleefully. "My father told me that the definition of an agreement is when both sides go away unhappy, and there is probably some truth to that,'' New Jersey Devils forward Tom Chorske said.


Q: What did the owners want when they locked out the players, and how much of it did they get?


A: The owners were looking for a mechanism to slow the escalation of players' wages. They wanted a salary cap, and had hired Commissioner Gary Bettman for that purpose. The owners did get measures that will slow salary growth in other ways. "It's enough for us to manage our business properly,'' King owner Joe Cohen said. "We spent a lot of time with each proposal, analyzing it from the Kings' point of view, and believe this gives us the tool to do it.''


Q: What did the players have before that they lost in this negotiation?


A: In the previous agreement, there was no restriction on entry-level salaries. Several recent high-priced rookies, like Eric Lindros and Alexandre Daigle, helped drive up salaries through a trickle-down effect. Now, there is a limit on the amount rookies can be paid. Also, there had been fewer restrictions on arbitration and free agency.


Q: Why did it take so long?


A: As in most long labor disputes, both sides underestimated their opponents' resolve. The players and owners would have benefited from agreeing to this deal at the start of negotiations. "I think when you look at it from both sides, my question is, 'Was it worth losing so much of the season for?''' Hartford Whalers General Manager Jim Rutherford said. "I believe that the deal we have now certainly could have been worked out last summer.''


Q: How much damage has been done to the NHL?


A: After a cooling-off period, the league's traditional fans probably will return. But with the publicity generated by the New York Rangers' Stanley Cup championship and the start of the new television contract with the Fox network, the NHL believed it would greatly expand its fan base this season. The lockout probably cost it a chance to do that in the short run.


Q: When will Fox telecast its first game?


A: Except for losing the All-Star game, which was supposed to be its debut, Fox's five-year, $155-million deal with the NHL has not been affected. It probably will go ahead with plans to televise regular season games on April 2 and April 9, although the matchups might be different because of the new schedule. Nine playoff games, including Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, if necessary, also will be televised.


ESPN wants to televise a game on the day that play begins, probably on ESPN2. Afterward, it would like to televise 14 regular season games on ESPN and three games a week on ESPN2.


Q: How will the layoff affect the players?


A: Some have been skating regularly during the lockout, but, for the most part, they are not in the shape they were when training camps ended. Nor will they be when the season opens. Some coaches, anticipating injuries, already are scouting minor- league teams for potential replacements. "I have a feeling there will be more injuries than under normal circumstances,'' defenseman Steve Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks said. "Guys stepping into games more quickly will do this.''


Boston's Cam Neely said it was difficult for players to motivate themselves to train during the lockout. "We asked ourselves, 'Are we doing this for a reason?''' he said. "Mentally, it can get tough to get on that bike and get on the ice.''