Let's Play Hockey!

The NHL season has been saved as the owners and the NHLPA finally agree to the framework of a new CBA.

Usually being jarred from sleep at 6 in the morning on a Sunday would put me in a major foul mood. Not this morning! Finding out that the NHL and the Blackhawks will be returning to ice was better than finding presents under the Christmas tree. After reading all the updates for about an hour I needed to catch up on some sleep. When I woke up again a couple of hours later and I needed to be sure it wasn't just a dream. As far as I can tell, this is really happening.

It took a 16 hour negotiation session, on the 113th day of madness, to finally end the stupidity that was NHL lockout. Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh had a lot to do with getting the two sides to finally come to terms. Beckenbaugh will never go thirsty in an NHL arena for the rest of his life, that's for sure! Here are the details of the new 10 year CBA:

The players' share of hockey-related revenue will drop from 57 percent to a 50-50 split for all 10 years.

The league coming off their demand for a $60 million cap in Year 2, meeting the NHLPA's request to have it at $64.3 million - which was the upper limit from last year's cap. The salary floor in Year 2 will be $44 million.

The upper limit on the salary cap in the first year is $60 million, but teams can spend up to $70.2 million (all pro-rated). The cap floor will be $44 million.

The 10-year deal also has an opt-out clause that kicks in after eight years.

Each team will be allowed two amnesty buyouts that can be used to terminate contracts after this season and next season. The buyouts will count against the players' overall share in revenues, but not the team's salary cap.

The salary variance on contracts from year to year cannot vary more than 35 per cent and the final year cannot vary more than 50 per cent of the highest year.

A player contract term limit for free agents will be seven years and eight years for a team signing its own player.

The draft lottery selection process will change with all 14 teams fully eligible for the first overall pick. The weighting system for each team may remain, but four-spot move restriction will be eliminated.

Supplemental discipline for players in on-ice incidents will go through NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan first, followed by an appeal process that would go through Bettman. For suspensions of six or more games, a neutral third party will decide if necessary.

Revenue sharing among teams will spread to $200 million. Additionally, an NHLPA-initiated growth fund of $60 million is included.

Teams can only walk away from a player in salary arbitration if the award is at least $3.5 million.

The NHL had hoped to change opening of free agency to July 10, but the players stood firm and it remains July 1 in the new agreement. But with a later ending to the season, free agency for this summer will start at a later date.

In addition to these terms, it seems like it will be harder to hide players in the AHL. This season any one way player's salary over 900K, in the AHL, will count against the NHL salary cap. Hello Rusty Olesz buyout!

Conference realignment and participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics still need to be hammered out.

The next step is documentation and ratification of the new deal. The length of the season, either 50 or 48 games, and the starting dates depends on how long this process takes. A 50 game season could start on Jan 15th, but most think a 48 game season will begin with all teams playing on Jan 19th.

The bottom line is, we are going to have a NHL season and our beloved Blackhawks will be back at the United Center. No more talk about Bill Daly and the Fehr brothers. No more discussions about disclaimer of interests or desertification of unions. No more annoying co-workers asking me if there is going to be a season. No more having to use Google translate just to get hockey stats.

I am very happy that hockey is returning. I am sure there is a huge sense of relief for those who make their living through the NHL but not by playing on ice. And finally, I am overjoyed that Pat Foley can finally start putting name brand booze in his Long Islands again! See you at the Madhouse kids!!