The National Hockey League is back!


It’s not yet official.  But after four months of bitter wrangling, the National Hockey League owners and players appear to have forged a new labor agreement that will get the boys back on the ice, hopefully put fans back in the stands, and makes this writer a whole lotta happy.

Hockey is my favorite sport.  I could watch every day of the week.  I could play it as often, too.  And it doesn’t matter what kind… ice hockey, floor hockey, Garage Arena (yes, in the garage), table hockey… heck, I’ve even got a board/card version of NHL hockey that’s 30 years old.  And Uncle Bob and I used to play hockey in the kitchen on our knees using old wooden rulers covered with a sock (so we didn’t damage the floor) and a ping pong ball.

Uncle Bob, Dad, and Uncle Wally got in trouble for playing hockey with real stick and a tennis ball, I think, in Babcia and Dziadzia (Grandma and Grandpa) Konieczka’s basement.

And that was as adults!

We are a hockey-crazed family.

Actually, we’re a sports-crazed family.  Hockey has played a prominent role.

And it’s my fave.

The owners still have to approve the contract.  So do the players.

Everyone expects that to happen.

The players and coaches will get seven days or less to prepare for the season.  Then, a 48-game sprint to the playoffs will start late next week.  If it’s anything like what happened in the NBA last year, there will be some bad hockey and a rash of injuries.

That’s a shame.  And it didn’t have to be.

The owners locked out the players in 2004 and the entire season was cancelled.  The following summer, the owners essentially told the players what they would give them.

This year, the owners locked out the players again when the collective bargaining agreement expired; the opening offer they made to the players was truly a slap in the face.

Owners should have a right to pay what they deem appropriate.  I am not fan of unions, particularly in professional sports, but I sympathized with the players this time.  The owners are the guys who offer large sums of money to the players for multiple year contracts.  Nobody forces the owners to offer and sign these contracts.

So when the owners, collectively, told the players they wanted to pay them about 75% of what the players were earning just a few months earlier, the players said no and I immediately sided with the players.

The owners were playing hard ball.  After several of them made large contract offers to players over the summer, signed them to long contracts, and then told them they didn’t want to give them all that money.


Who suffered?

The non-superstar players making at or near the minimum contract.  The front office staff of each team.  Concession workers.  Parking attendants.  Local restaurants.  Businesses selling hockey-related merchandise.  The local municipalities, who lost out on tax revenue as well.


So we salvage the season.  I don’t know how fans will react.  Will they come back in earnest?  Will they be more vocal when they perceive a player or coach — or perhaps even team ownership — is underperforming?  Will they hold everyone to a higher standard? 

Or will they simply be thankful and relieved that hockey is back and forget the four months of neglect and disregard?

I know this post has jumped around.  Just wanted to get some thoughts on paper (electronic paper, that is!).

I’m still infuriated at how this transpired.

But when they drop the puck for the first time, the pain will begin to fade.

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