The NHL will operate under a 50-game or 48-game condensed regular season schedule dependent upon when the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified.
The NHL and NHL Players Association tentatively came to terms on a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement on Sunday morning, which finally ended the 113-day lockout.
With an agreement in place, the two sides will need to document the deal and then ratify it for the lockout to officially be over. In addition to putting the lockout to rest, the ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement will also determine when the regular season starts and for how long it will last.
Entering the final stages of negotiations, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear that the league would need to play at least 48-games this season. In order for that to happen, a new deal would need to be reached by Jan. 11.
With the (seemingly) hardest part out of the way (please, let it be out of the way), the start and length of the 2013 season will be determined in the coming days.
According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN and ESPN, the regular season will be 50 games if it starts by Jan. 15 and will be 48 games if it starts on Jan. 19.
It is believed based upon previous reports that teams will play inter-conference schedules in order to optimize the condensed slate.