“My son asked me, ‘Who unlocked the doors?’ ” Chimera, 33, said. “I didn’t know what to say. I just laughed.”
The end of the lockout came after more than 16 consecutive hours of bargaining on the 113th day. Language and legal details of the new collective bargaining agreement still need to be finalized, and then the deal must be ratified by a majority of both the union’s roughly 750 members and the league’s 30-member Board of Governors before it can become official.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in New York, while standing alongside Donald Fehr, the union’s executive director.
“Hopefully within a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us,” Fehr said.
The third NHL work stoppage in Bettman’s tenure began when the owners locked out the players on Sept. 16, despite seeing league revenues rise to an all-time high of $3.3 billion the previous season. In total, 625 regular season games, including the outdoor Winter Classic, and the All-Star Game were canceled.
The NHL canceled the entire 2004-2005 season because of an owners’ lockout of players, and played a shortened 48-game schedule following a lockout in 1994-1995.
As they await the completion of the agreement, players are hastily making arrangements to return to their NHL cities and preparing to shift from lockout-inflicted boredom to midseason intensity in less than two weeks.
Once the new collective bargaining agreement is approved by both sides, the NHL will hold either a 50- or 48-game season that would begin on Jan. 15 or 19. Schedules have not yet been released, but it is believed that either option would see teams face only conference opponents.
The Capitals will face inherent challenges with a compressed schedule. Although their travel should be easier as a member of the Eastern Conference — most foes are less than a two-hour flight away — the team will be learning a new system from its third coach in just 14 months.
The Capitals will have roughly a week for training camp to learn first-time Coach Adam Oates’s style of play before jumping into a truncated season in which each game will hold heightened playoff implications.
“There’s going to be no grace period where you can struggle or stumble a little bit,” Capitals winger Troy Brouwer said. “If you go on a three-game losing streak, that could be the difference between [getting] in the playoffs and out of the playoffs.”
Forward Matt Hendricks, who was on an ice-fishing trip when he received a text message from Chimera with the news of the agreement, is confident the Capitals can make it work.