The National Hockey League is officially back in business. For those of us who enjoy a good NHL game, that’s good news. For those of us who enjoy sanctimonious posturing and splaying ourselves on the altar of simplicity, it’s also good news because we can regale our friends with stories about how many games we’re boycotting and how “it’s all about the greed, man.”
Training camp is set to open Sunday and the nearly four month NHL lockout is officially over. The players’ vote led to the NHL and the NHLPA to sign a written notice of understanding that illustrated that the two sides were on the same page and the new CBA became final on late Saturday night.
The voting process for the players took 36 hours and was done electronically. 98.2 percent agreed to the deal and a dozen players refused it.
Camp will kick into gear for a week and the NHL will open its doors once more on January 19. There will be 13 games on that day, booting off a 48-game campaign that will spread over 99 days. The new schedule means that teams will only play inside their own conference throughout the season.
Already, the NHL season is shaping up to be a dramatic one. There is trade talk about Roberto Luongo to consider, for one thing, and a host of young players that finally have the chance to come into their own. We’ll be talking about some of these stories in the coming days, even if it means enduring the usual smattering of “who cares” comments.
Consider, for instance, that the Edmonton Oilers will finally have the chance to game-test Nail Yakupov. He was a virtual no-show at the World Juniors, but word around the Edmonton campfire is that he could be plugged into the top line right out of the box. That could depend on how well the abbreviated training camp goes, of course.
Or there’s the Minnesota Wild, who’ll finally get to see how well Zach Parise and Ryan Suter do with their massive contracts.
Teams who had players skating in Europe or in other leagues (200 players in all, give or take) could have an advantage on the conditioning side, although it’s a given that most players – except for Tim Thomas, who’s still out for religious reasons – have maintained some form of game shape.
With less than a week to go until the NHL opens the big barn door again, what will this year hold? Fans will be back, no matter what they say, and the NHL might just maybe be the better for a longer CBA that ensures this mess doesn’t happen again for at least eight years. Still, a free Centre Ice package would be nice. And some Skittles.