Bettman’s personal message: “I’m sorry”

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As expected, the NHL’s Board of Governors unanimously ratified the league’s new collective bargaining agreement today in New York.

But it was commissioner Gary Bettman’s personal message to the players, sponsors, and “most importantly to our fans,” that stood out:

“I’m sorry.”

Bettman acknowledged that no explanation was going to erase the hard feelings that the lockout caused.

“I read the letters, I followed the tweets, I read the blogs,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

Part of that work, according to the commissioner, will involve “outreaches” and “campaigns” aimed at reconnecting with the fans.

Bettman went on to praise the 10-year CBA as one he believes is good for the long-term health of the league.

“This is a good deal, this is a fair deal,” he said he told the owners, while admitting that ”not everyone gets what they want…on either side.”

As for his own future, Bettman called any talk of his departure “unfounded speculation” and that he’s looking forward to growing the game.

Now it’s the players’ turn to approve the deal. The NHLPA is expected to finish voting electronically by Saturday, with training camp likely to open Sunday.