Restless night ends with NHL agreement

Restless night ends with NHL agreement
January 6, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Chimera: Lockout ending "a long time coming"

Capitals left wing Jason Chimera had a restless sleep on his couch most of Saturday night, waking up every hour to check his phone for updates on NHL labor negotiations that lasted almost until sunrise.

When he was awoken at 5 a.m. with a text saying the league and its players’ association had come to a tentative agreement on a 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement he couldn’t contain his emotions.

“Me and my kids had a dance party,” Chimera told “It was pretty exciting. It was like Christmas morning for me. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs through the whole thing and that wakeup call got the competitive juices flying again. I want to start as soon as possible.”

The NHL Board of Governors and players’ union will need to ratify the agreement and that is expected to take place on Tuesday. If there are no snags in the language of the CBA, which contains close to 300 pages, training camps may open as early as Wednesday or as late as Friday.

The ratification process also could determine whether the NHL has a 50-game season beginning Jan. 15 or a 48-game season beginning Jan 19.

Like Chimera, Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer spent Saturday night checking his phone for updates before finally calling it a night.

“The last time I stayed up so late [last Wednesday] absolutely nothing happened and talks broke off and even got worse,” Brouwer told “I figured I wasn’t going to torture myself.”

Brouwer said he woke up around 7 a.m. with a text message from Chimera.

“I missed eight other ones,” he said. “It was a good wakeup call.”

Face-to-face talks between the league and players began Saturday afternoon and went on for 16 hours before the two sides came to an agreement just before 5 a.m. The biggest movement from the owners came when they increased the salary cap in 2013-14 from $60 million to $64.3 million. The cap this season is set at $70 million.

The owners also relented on the maximum length of player contracts, moving from six years to seven and the year-to-year variance of those contracts, from 10 percent to 35 percent with no greater than a 50 percent variance from the lowest amount of the contract to the highest.

In other words, if a player signs a four-year deal that averages $4 million, he can make no less than $2 million and no more than $6 million at any point during those four years.

Brouwer said the higher salary cap and improvements to the players’ pension were necessary ingredients to getting a deal but said the biggest motivator was the Jan. 11 deadline NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made for saving the season.

“The league and the players couldn’t go any further because they knew throwing a season away would be absolutely devastating to the industry,” Brouwer said. “Both sides pushed, but at the end of the day not willing to lose a season was the determining factor in making a deal.”

Chimera and Brouwer lauded NHLPA executive director Don Fehr and the union’s executive committee for what Chimera called “countless” hours at the negotiating table.

“The reason we hired [Fehr] two years ago was because of the knowledge he has in these situations,” Broueer said.

“All along he told us how this would play out and he was bang-on pretty much every single time. I stood behind him the whole time. Even though there were times things looked bleak guys were still confident in him.

“A lot of things the owners said they had to have and wouldn’t move off of, they moved quite substantially to get a deal. As players we feel we gave a lot very early on. We gave up a lot of future growth revenue and we were just waiting for them to move toward us with things like pension and the cap.”

Brouwer, who recently became a new father, said he’s simply happy that the emotional roller coaster of those negotiations is over.

“There were times it seemed almost pointless,” he said. “The emotions of getting high and getting excited wore off quite a while ago because progress was made and then it would blow up. It wears on you after a while.

“Last week I told Chimmer I wouldn’t get excited until Don Fehr called us.”

It was an early wakeup call, but one players were happy to take.