With a tentative agreement to end the lengthy NHL lockout in place, the NHL and NHL Players' Association must officially approve the deal within the next few days before players actually return to the ice -- a move that is expected to come Wednesday.

The two sides reached an agreement early Sunday after a marathon bargaining session that finally brought them within sight of an end to the 113-day lockout.

At this point, the league is looking at a 48-game season, which would likely begin on Jan. 19.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Monday the prospect of a 50-game season was becoming less likely as the two sides continued to nail down the final details of the agreement.

"It depends on ratification timeline for PA (players’ association), but it's looking more and more like 48 games is going to be the only option," Daly told The Canadian Press in an email.

Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth told The Associated Press that the process requires more time.

“Of course the league will say if the players hurry up, we can play more games, but there's a reality to consider as well," said Westgarth. "But the first step is for the people who are good with words to get on paper what both sides agreed to.

"Then, we have to get guys -- who are scattered all over the world -- to understand the agreement before we can start voting."

As news of the tentative deal spread, players who had signed on with European teams prepared to return to North America. More than 200 NHL players had signed with European teams during the lockout.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who’d signed with the Dynamo Moscow, tweeted about his return to the U.S.

"Great to be home in DC! Thank you Dynamo!! It was gr8 time......good luck to boys for gagarin cup!!!," Ovechkin said.

With the shortened season set to potentially begin in just 12 days, players across North America traded in their NHLPA-issued sweaters for team jerseys and participated in informal skating sessions.

"It's the same kind of mindset as a full season but it's going to be a little more desperate," Toronto Maple Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur said. "You've got to be good right off the bat."

Related industries take a hit

Meanwhile as the NHL players look ahead to a new season, spinoff industries are still feeling the economic effects of the lockout.

Related industries, like the restaurant and hotel industries, have been hard hit by the labour stoppage. Sports merchandise retailers have also suffered losses.

“One of our locations, for the entire month of December, sold one Ottawa Senators’ jersey. This is the impact that it’s had and this is the mentality the fans have had through this lockout. They’re upset,” retailer Christ Torti said.

BMO Chief Economist Douglas Porter said the NHL lockout resulted in a multi-million dollar economic loss.

“What ended up being lost was about $700 million. It’s significant, given the fact that every little bit counts in terms of growth,” Porter said.

Molson Coors, one of the league’s biggest suppliers and sponsors, said it plans to seek compensation from the league.

“There were occasions where people would’ve got together to have a beer during the 113 days of the lockout. Those occasions were lost,” Molson Coors’ Ferg Devins said.

NHL Board of Governors, NHLPA to hold ratification votes

The NHL’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet in New York on Wednesday to hold its ratification vote. Meanwhile, the NHLPA was contemplating an electronic vote that would end on Saturday.

However, CTV's Melanie Nagy, reporting from New York, said reporters are hearing that the players will vote “likely on the same time frame.”

The tentative deal, believed to be a 10-year agreement, was struck between the NHL and the NHLPA just days before the Jan. 11 deadline. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had said Jan. 11 was the latest date that a deal could be reached in order to salvage a season.

The agreement must be ratified by both the league's owners and the players’ association, representing about 740 players.

"Hopefully within a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating -- not the two of us," said Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players' Association.

The details of the deal have not been announced, but a source told The Canadian Press that the agreement includes a seven-year contract term limit for free agents and eight years for players re-signing with the same team. The deal also includes a 35-per-cent yearly variance in salary and no more than 50 per cent difference between any two seasons.

It also includes defined benefit pension plans for the players as well as a $64.3-million salary cap in 2013-14 -- addressing two key sticking points in the negotiations.

Shortened 48-game season

The NHL played a 48-game season after a lockout during the 1994-95 season.

A source told The Canadian Press that this season the NHL is planning to have teams play three games against their 10 opponents in the same conference but outside of their division. They will then play an unbalanced schedule against division rivals, with five games against two teams and four games against two others.

NHL vice-president Steve Hatze Petros has been looking at multiple scheduling possibilities and it’s reported that he has completed one that is likely to be used this season.

The shortened schedule is not likely to be released publicly until after the new CBA is ratified by owners.

The NHL’s calendar will undergo a number of changes due to the shortened schedule. Sources say the league has proposed an April 5 trade deadline and a July 5 opening to free agency. However, both sides have yet to agree on the changes.

The date for the entry draft may also need adjusting. The draft was scheduled for June 28-29 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Fans, coaches react to return of the NHL

Fan reaction to the deal has been mixed. Some are simply happy to know their beloved NHL is returning, while others remain somewhat bitter at the squabble that took almost four months to resolve, with fans left hanging in the balance.

More than 22,000 fans have thrown their support behind a ticket sales boycott called ‘Just Drop It,” that was launched on Facebook.

The campaign states that for every game lost to the lockout, campaign supporters should boycott an equivalent game once the season resumes.

NHL coaches said they understand that they’ll need to win back fan support.

On Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle acknowledged that fans, “have been patient” during the lockout and it’s now up to each team in the league to win them back.

“In our situation we’re in the entertainment industry; we’re expected to go out and preform to the highest possible level,” Carlyle told reporters at a morning news conference. “And I think if we do that we’ll win our fans back.”

On the weekend, Calgary Flames president Ken King went so far as to publicly apologize to fans for the stoppage on behalf of his franchise, and said the team will "show gratitude" by giving fans a high-end performance.

"It's a pure and simple and humble apology to our fans," King said. "My experience with fans is that the reason they're fans is because they love hockey."

On Monday, Pittsburgh Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle also issued an apology to fans.

"There is nothing we can say to explain or excuse what has happened over the past four months," the pair said in a statement.

With a report from CTV’s Parliamentary Correspondent Richard Madan and files from The Canadian Press