The NHL and NHLPA have a tentative agreement in place on a new collective bargaining agreement, but the two sides have a lot of work ahead of them to repair the damage to the league brand.

This lockout was unnecessary, and lasted far too long. While undoubtedly most NHL fans will flock back, many were upset by the work stoppage. A number of them are disgruntled and will have to be wooed back.

While the new agreement is for ten years (with a mutual opt-out at year 8), ensuring a lengthy period of labor peace, most pundits greeted the news with a weary, “8 to 10 years before we go through this again”.

The league and its players not only have to heal their relationship with the fans, but also improve the labor relationship between each other.

Fans and pundits shouldn’t be expecting labor strife following every CBA. Sooner or later, it will take a serious toll upon the fan base.

It’s imperative for the owners and the players to work together over the next ten years in a true partnership for their mutual benefit, and avoid future contentious labor talks between them.

In the coming days, as details of the new CBA are revealed, some pundits and bloggers will pore over them to determine which side “won” the lockout.

That would be a waste of time. There are no winners from this pointless, stupid lockout. Only losers.

The team owners may have gotten its way over the main issues (50-50 split of HRR, a “make whole” option rather than honor existing contracts, salary variance, term limits on player contracts), but the league suffered damage to its brand. Even if it isn’t long-term, it wasn’t worth killing half a season.

The players came out of this with a far better deal than the league initially offered. Their arbitration rights were protected, there were no changes to existing free agent rules, plus they got a higher salary cap ceiling for 2013-14, amnesty buyouts and an improved pension plan. Nevertheless, they will continue to be vilified by some fans and pundits as selfish and greedy.

The fans spent over three months unable to follow their favorite professional hockey league, becoming more disillusioned and angry with the NHL. They feel their opinion counts for nothing and their support is taken for granted.

Those working class folks who rely on the NHL for work had to suffer through reduced wages or layoffs, bringing unnecessary strife and financial difficulties to their households.

No matter how much the league tried to make this new CBA “loophole-proof”, expect general managers and their capologists to find some to exploit, potentially setting the stage for more labor strife in eight to ten years.

Perhaps the NHL won’t suffer any significant long-term damage by this lockout. Maybe over the course of the new CBA, their revenue will continue to climb to all time highs, while the players continue to benefit from a rising salary cap and the efforts of GMs to find loopholes in the agreement.

If so, the owners and players cannot assume the fans will remain loyal through another lockout. This nonsense cannot continue, because if it does, the NHL will eventually suffer the consequences, which could prove irreparable.