- League's board of governors OKs deal; now players will vote
- If approved, the agreement would end a three-month lockout
- Truncated 48-game season could begin next weekend
Pucks will fly as soon as next weekend if National Hockey League players ratify a collective bargaining agreement that won a seal of approval Wednesday from the league's board of governors.
League officials hope for a truncated 48-game regular season to start January 19 if the 700 NHL athletes approve the pact. They are expected to complete voting by Saturday.
The deal, reached Sunday with the NHL Players' Association, may end the three-month lockout and could salvage the second half of the season and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins and chairman of the National Hockey League Board of Governors, announced ratification of the deal by the body.
"This great game has been gone for far too long, and for that we are truly sorry," Jacobs said in a statement.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Sunday the "basic framework" of a deal was agreed upon after a 16-hour negotiating session at a Manhattan hotel.
The NHL scrapped its preseason and all games through the end of 2012 after its contract with the players expired on September 15, with no agreement between the two sides. There were 526 games, nearly 43% of the season, scheduled from the start of the regular season on October 11 through December 30, the NHL said.
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.
A similar labor dispute canceled the entire 2004-05 NHL season.