Coming back to hockey, ever so slowly

With the lockout now resolved, hockey fans everywhere can rest easy knowing that the game they love will indeed be returning for an abbreviated season.

Getting past the pain, frustration and other negative feelings created by this work stoppage will be difficult. In fact, many fans probably won’t come back during the shortened 2013 season. I’m even at a bit of a loss in terms of where I stand as the season is set to begin. I’m certainly glad that I’ll get to watch the Sabres and maybe even catch a few games live. But at the same time the lockout left me with a very empty, lethargic feeling about the NHL and hockey as a whole.

Early on in the lockout I was determined to not pay too much attention to the daily back and forth between the league and the PA. Not until the days in December and November when things appeared to be very close to being resolved did my ears truly perk up. Of course, that was just a precursor to one more month of maddening negotiations that were little more than tire spinning in the grand scheme.

The 16-hour marathon session that ended this charade was basically what fans and media had been clamoring for since September. Sitting down and presenting offers before meeting in the middle was also what had been pushed for by fans and media alike for the entire run as well. Yet it took until January. As Ryan Miller said at one point, it seemed as if this was more about satisfying egos than protecting the integrity of the game.

But now the game is back. There is a new 10-year CBA with a few interesting new clauses and what should be a fail-safe to prevent owners and GMs from turning player contracts into the circus act they had become. I’d say the league ended up with a slightly better result than the players, but not by much. The PA managed to get quite a bit of salary variance built into the CBA that will allow players to still work large salaries into the seven or eight-year deals they will be signing.

For me, the only thing I care about is the 10-year CBA with the eight-year out clause. It guarantees some longevity for the league and should hopefully curb the impact of the next CBA negotiations. At least that would be my hope.

As for the fans, I think everyone has a right to their own opinion. If you want to welcome the game back with open arms, do it. I just won’t agree with you. I think all fans should be pleased that the game is back and they should eventually embrace this awesome sport. However, the owners and stewards of this game should have to see tangible proof of what they’ve done. If the fans come back blindly there will be no reason for owners, PA reps, league officials and players to feel badly about what has happened.

I would love if there was 15 empty buildings on January 19. Just a one-time league-wide protest that you stepped on our toes a little too hard this time and you need to pay the price. Leave arenas empty, just for that first game. Let owners see the damage they caused, then come back and enjoy the rest of the schedule that has been granted to you.

Perhaps this is a drastic step and it would unfairly punish arena and team employees who have already suffered more than they should through this lockout. But their bosses (some of them at least) were the ones driving this charade and they should realize that their golden goose has been tarnished. This is also a measure which is beyond impossible to complete. Getting 1,800 people to do something in unison is hard enough; getting 18,000 in 15 different cities would be near impossible. Still, it’s a thought and would certainly send a pretty loud message.

Either way, you have 48 games to soak in, hopefully your team gets off to a good start


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