Schedule info below
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."
The clock is already ticking for NHL players preparing to return to the ice.
With the end to the lockout pending, there will only be time for a brief training camp before a compressed schedule of 48 or 50 games.
The next few weeks will quickly show whether players who haven't played a competitive game since last spring are ready for the rigours of a regular season.
"I don't think it'll be too tough," said Montreal Canadiens forward Travis Moen. "Guys are professionals, so you should have been keeping yourself in decent shape all this time.
"We'll have some time to skate before, and then you make the best of it."
The NHL and the players reached a tentative agreement early Sunday morning but no details on how many games each team would play or when the season would begin were released.
There may be a wide disparity in game-readiness when the season does finally get underway.
About 200 players got game action skating for European clubs during the lockout, and most teams sent a few of their younger players to the American Hockey League.
But most, like Montreal captain Brian Gionta, did their best just to stay fit and keep their skills sharp by skating a few times a week in small groups on rented ice.
"Their timing and game-readiness would be there for sure,'' he said of those who played during the lockout. "It'll take a few games to get caught up, but that's the reality of where we're at."
A big concern will be staying healthy.
Injuries in the NBA reportedly rose more than 14 per cent from the previous season after their lockout ended in December 2011. Teams played a 66-game schedule after a short training camp. Some, including commissioner David Stern, disputed the injuries were the result of the lockout.
The shortened NHL schedule will have teams averaging more than 3.5 games per week.
"It's one of the more obvious things that might happen, especially groins, hip flexors, that sort of thing," said Vancouver Canucks forward Chris Higgins. "I think you'll see some teams with troubles with that early on.
"Hopefully, you've been doing the right things leading up to this."
His teammate Manny Malhotra said even that may not be enough.
"Watching the NBA last year try to squeeze in as many games as possible, it’s very taxing on the body," said Malhotra. "(Hockey) is obviously a lot more physical game than basketball.