Tentative NHL deal could end lockout

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(CNN) — The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association struck a tentative agreement early Sunday that may end a more-than-100-day lockout of unionized players, the league said in a statement posted on its website.

The new agreement reached in New York still must be approved by both the players and owners, the NHL said.

“After a marathon 16-plus hour negotiating session at the Sofitel Hotel that began Saturday afternoon, the sides announced an agreement in principle shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday,” the league said.

Some players had a “crucial role in the final stages” of reaching the agreement, the union said. “Players in the room early Sunday for the announcement were: Craig Adams, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Shane Doan, Andrew Ference, Ron Hainsey, Jamal Mayers and George Parros,” the players association said.

The NHL scrapped its preseason and all games through the end of 2012 after the contract expired on September 15 and the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

If the agreement is approved, the door is open to salvage the second half of the season and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said any abbreviated regular season should probably have a minimum of 48 games per team.

A total 526 games, nearly 43% of the season, were scheduled from the start of the regular season on October 11 through December 30, the NHL said.

A similar labor dispute canceled the entire 2004-05 NHL season.

The two sides did not immediately release details of the agreement.

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said he is hopeful the next steps “will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch and we’ll get back to what we used to call business as usual as fast as we can.”

The new deal would replace the agreement that expired September 15.

Sports Illustrated has tracked the intricacies of the talks and flashpoint issues, and argued that the NHL is “in dire need” of a new way of handling labor relations.

Initial reactions shared with CNN on social media were mixed.

“They waited too long. I think they’re gonna take a well-deserved hit from hockey fans,” HBobbie McLeod wrote on Facebook.

But some fans expressed excitement.

“Now time to see the LAKings raise their banner! #Finally,” wrote Lisa, a self-described former hockey fan, on Twitter. But, she added, “after being a fan for 23 years through 4 lockouts, enough is enough.”

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