NEW YORK, N.Y. - A transcript of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's personal statement regarding the NHL lockout at the NHL Board of Governors meeting Wednesday:
"To the players who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labour contracts, to our partners who support the league financially and personally, and most importantly to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I'm sorry. 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.
"As commissioner of the National Hockey League it falls upon me to make tough decisions that disappoint and occasionally anger players and fans. This was a long and extremely difficult negotiation. One that took a lot longer than anybody wanted. I know it caused frustration, disappointment and even suffering to a lot of people who have supported the National Hockey League in many different ways.
"In the end neither side got everything it wanted and everyone lost in the short term. But the NHL gained a long-term agreement that's good for players and good for teams and should guarantee the future success of NHL hockey for many years to come. It will help the game to grow, ensuring greater economic stability for all of our teams.
"It's a 10-year agreement, one that will stand the test of time with a system where all teams can be competitive and have a chance to make the playoffs and even win the Stanley Cup. And third, it guarantees that our attention from now on will stay where it belongs. On the ice.
"I thank the National Hockey League Players' Association, Don Fehr, and particularly the players on the negotiating committee of their efforts in helping to secure the stability and success of NHL hockey for seasons to come.
"They fought hard for what they believed in and represented their fellow players extraordinarily well. Once the players ratify the agreement all the things that you love most about NHL hockey — the speed, the intensity, the skill, the teamwork and the incredible passion— will greet you once again.
"As I said we know that no words of apology or explanation will soften the disappointment. I read the letters, I followed the tweets, I read the blogs: we have a lot of work to do. The National Hockey League has a responsibility to earn back your trust and support, whether you watch one game or every game. And that effort begins today. The players are ready to play their hearts out for you, the teams are preparing to welcome you back with open arms, the wait is just about over. Like all of you we can't wait to drop the puck."