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Players vote to approve new labor deal

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Hockey fans celebrate the return of NHL hockey during a rally in Winnipeg
Hockey fans celebrate the return of NHL hockey during a rally in Winnipeg

(Reuters) - National Hockey League (NHL) players have ratified the new collective bargaining agreement, bringing them a step closer to dropping the puck on a condensed season, the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) said on Saturday.

A written memorandum of understanding (MOU) consistent with what the players voted on must be completed before the agreement becomes final, the NHLPA said in a statement. The NHLPA and NHL are working to finalize the MOU.

If the two sides sign the MOU on Saturday, NHL teams are expected to begin training camps on Sunday with the regular season set to start on January 19.

The players' approval came three days after the NHL's board of governors voted unanimously to ratify the 10-year labor deal.

The two sides, who had been at odds over several issues including player contracts, pensions and how to split revenue, reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement last week after a 16-hour negotiating session.

Approval from the players was the last key obstacle standing in the way of what is expected to be a condensed 48-game regular season, down from the usual 82 games, starting next week.

The dispute, which was the league's fourth work stoppage in 20 years and the first since a lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, began in mid-September and resulted in billions of dollars in lost revenue for the NHL and players.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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