Ference: 'Deeply sorry' lockout was so long

Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was among the first to break the news of the tentative deal reached between the players and union to end the NHL lockout, tweeting a simple thumbs-up emoticon at 5:02 a.m.

Shortly afterward, he sent a series of tweets aimed at fans of the Bruins and NHL:

“As players we can now do what we do best. Proudly pull on our jerseys and play with complete passion for our cities and fans.

“I hope that we can replace the intense negativity brought on our sport with a reminder of how great it can be when the action is on the ice.

“From my grandparents to our B’s fans, I am deeply sorry that we had to miss so much hockey. All we can do now is play our hearts out for you.”

Word of the agreement came after the two sides hashed out their remaining differences for more than 16 hours at a hotel in midtown Manhattan, a process Ference was a part of. It was the lengthiest negotiating session and latest night of a lockout that has lasted 113 days -- almost four months.

The tentative agreement is a 10-year deal with a mutual opt-out clause after eight years and includes contract term limits at seven years (eight years for a team to re-sign its own players), a source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.

It is believed the sides are aiming for either a 48- or 50-game season depending on how quickly things get done. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported that a 50-game season would start Jan. 15, while a 48-game season would start Jan. 19.