Now that the NHL’s Lockout has been resolved, I hope Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr aren’t too upset if I don’t genuflect and kiss their rings for granting us the privilege of “enjoying” the 2012/2013 season. Given that hockey fans are again faced with the prospect of a 48-game schedule that begins in mid-January, perhaps we should refer to the season as the 2013 season?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am glad that we will get to watch NHL hoc key prior to the 2013/2014 season – especially with Cablevision and MSG refusing to show Connecticut Whale games live as opposed to the same dozen or so re-tread games they keep showing.

As I said, I am glad the NHL is back but I just don’t seem to have the same fervor for hockey – at least not yet. That might be change come Opening Night, in mid-February, or even towards the end of a 48-game season where the New York Rangers repeat their annual race to struggle to make the playoffs (last season not withstanding).

I suppose I should thank the NHL and the NHLPA for their individual roles in the Lockout because it gave me an opportunity to really focus on the 2013 U-20 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Was I the only who thought a city named Ufa should be in Italy as opposed to Russia? Think about it for a few seconds and you will get the joke – I hope.

I am not one of those hockey fans who are so bitter that he is going to swear off hockey in order to teach the NHL and NHLPA a lesson. I love the New York Rangers and I love hockey. Why would I deprive myself of something I love so much to teach the league and the players a lesson – especially when they don’t even know who I am.

On the other hand, I am not going to run out and buy tickets to head down to the Garden nor am I going to pony up the pro-rated fishnagels to order the NHL’s Center Ice Package. The only way I will be viewing the Center Ice Package will be during whatever free previews they offer at the start of the season.

Of course, the NHL would be very wise to heed the advice many hockey writers have been giving to them – offer the Center Ice Package free to whomever wants it this season.

Dan Oldfield of CBC sports said it best when he wrote, “Two dollars off the price of a ticket and a big ‘Thank You Fans’ decal painted on the ice won’t cut it.”

Oldfield hit the nail right on the head. The NHL, and the NHLPA for that matter, need to come up with a meaningful gesture to win back fans. A dopey decal on the ice is not a “thank you”, it is a “f@#$ you” to fans.

If the NHL won’t reward fans with a free Center Ice Package perhaps they can get the teams to bring in cheerleaders like they had in Ufa at the WJC {grin}.

The worst part about the Lockout was that it could have been settled a long time ago if both sides had been willing to make concessions at the beginning of the negotiations instead of nearly waiting until it was too late.

The NHL should have recognized that the NHLPA was not going to sit back idly as the owners sliced and diced the salary cap down to the ridiculous numbers they were originally offering.

The NHLPA should have realized that a 50-50 split was inevitable given that is what the NBA and the NFL both agreed to.

I understand that the Lockout was all about posturing. Bettman and his hardline owners (that would be you Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider) were out to crush the NHLPA. Ownership always attempts to that in any labor negotiation.

Fehr and the union were going to fight tooth and nail to avoid the beating they took from the press at the end of the 2004/2005 Lockout. In the end, the players still managed to walk away ahead according to Mark Recchi.

“Look at that last deal. We ended up with the [salary] cap and everyone thought it was a bad deal. But it ended up great, right? No matter what the system is, or has been, the players get their money,” Recchi explained to David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail.

The players do deserve credit for scoring a victory in terms of getting owners to implement a “defined-benefit” plan for the players. Shoalts points out that prior to the current CBA “benefits were [not] guaranteed and payments depended on the performance of the plan’s investments. The plan was infamous for its low payouts even after a group of players successfully sued the league in the 1990s and won improvements.”

In a day and age where athletes are looking out only for themselves, the NHLPA scored big in taking care of past and future NHLers.

The biggest plus is that the two sides agreed to a 10-year CBA with each side having the option to opt out after eight years – something rational people would not consider, but no one ever accused the NHL or the NHLPA of being rational.

The Canadian Press published a story that wrote how Buffalo Sabres President Ted Black “apologized” to the fans and assured them that the Sabres focus is on winning the Stanley Cup.

Later in the article, Black reflected on the drama that occurred as a result of the lockout.

“Hopefully,” Black stated, “fans don’t have to go through this for the next 10 years.”

Ted, hopefully fans will NEVER have to go through this again.

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