NEW YORK — Commissioner Gary Bettman got unanimous owner support Wednesday for the pending labor deal, then apologized to those hurt by the NHL lockout and said he isn't going anywhere.
The board of governors met in a hotel and overwhelmingly approved the agreement reached early Sunday, the 113th day of the lockout.
Bettman felt the full brunt of anger, especially from fans, during the four-month dispute. He was contrite in announcing the owners' vote.
"Most importantly to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I am sorry," Bettman, 60, said. "I know that an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months, but I owe you an apology nevertheless."
In his nearly 20 years as commissioner, Bettman has presided over three lockouts. One caused the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, another led to a 48-game season in 1995.
The latest lockout wiped out 510 games. Overall, 2,208 games have been lost by labor disputes during his tenure. But Bettman was quick to call speculation he might consider stepping down from his post or is in danger of being fired as "unfounded."
Players are expected to vote on the deal electronically Friday and Saturday. If a majority of the more than 700 members in good standing agree to the terms, training camps can open Sunday. A 48-game season is likely to begin Jan. 19. No preseason games will be played.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who forged a Hall of Fame career over 22 seasons with the Red Wings, said he isn't concerned about getting adjusted to the deal because the key issue of the salary cap hasn't changed much.
"I don't see it being terribly difficult," said Yzerman, who retired one season after the 2004-05 lockout. "Over the next year or two the market will readjust, and that will sort itself out."
Leafs fire gm Burke: Brian Burke's brash, outspoken style wasn't a good fit for the new corporate owners of the Maple Leafs, who fired their general manager in a move that stunned many with its timing. Longtime Burke assistant David Nonis will fill the job and Burke will stay as a senior adviser, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment president Tom Anselmi said. Four years without a playoff berth — the length of Burke's tenure — factored into the decision, Anselmi said. But ultimately ownership wanted a different look at the top, he said. Canada's largest telecommunication companies, Rogers Communications and BCE Inc., took control of the Maple Leafs and the NBA's Raptors in August. "Brian … said 'I get it, ownership is changing,' " Anselmi said.