The NHL is back: A new year's miracle

On January 15, 2013


I woke up at 6 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6, and slid across my slick wood floor in fuzzy socks. I jumped up and down. I stomped my feet and screamed in glee.

It was the news I had been waiting for the past three months.

The National Hockey League (NHL) owners made a final offer and the Players Association agreed to it.

Days later, the new collective bargaining agreement was in place, players returned from Russia and training camps geared up for the incumbent 48-game season.

Let's talk about what the new agreement means.

Fans of teams like the New York Islanders will be happy to see teams were given two amnesty buyouts. The buyouts can relieve franchises of chronically injured players like Rick DiPietro (who signed a 15-year $67.5 million contract in 2006), will no longer be a parasite to an already penny-filching owner.

DiPietro-style contracts will quickly be a thing of the past. Free agent signings are now limited to seven years, with teams able to renew their own player contracts for eight years if they wish. This basically saves teams like the Islanders, Bruins and Devils from themselves.

But above all, the term of the agreement is bold and written in red. The CBA is in place for 10 years, with a mutual opt-out option after eight. This means we could see another lockout within the decade.

Those eight years scare fans the most. They send fans into thinking about how they can change the culture of the business around the game to prevent the next lockout from threatening the sanctity of hockey.

What can a fan do? You cannot elect the executive director of the NHLPA. You cannot elect anyone to the NHL board of governors. You can hardly support your owner if he/she doesn't want you to (Sabres fans are more than fortunate to have people in the front office who care about the fans' opinions; Ted Black and Terry Pegula handled the lockout with grace).

A grassroots movement of love and support is slowly sweeping through the hockey community, turning anger and frustration into action. It transfers the sadness of losing 510 (41.5 percent) regular season games and returns positivity.

While the fans lost games, the real losers of the lockout are the small businesses that conduct their lives around hockey. Think of the bars and dives where you spend the games that you can't afford tickets to. Think about how packed Duff's gets Friday nights during Sabres games. Those wall-to-wall nights didn't happen for 12 games this season. In big markets like Boston, the total revenue lost by small business owners reached up to $1 million per game.

You don't have to boycott the NHL to show your disapproval of their conduct; just go out and get drunk like you know you want to. Rather than spend an extra $20 on the new draft class hat, spend it on a beer and appetizers at Buffalo Wild Wings or the Amherst Ale House. Do your part and give back to those who really hurt through all of the "Hockey Related Revenue" bickering.

And don't forget the teams that were there to ease the withdrawal symptoms. Hockey fans put all of their passion into AHL and NCAA teams in the three months sans NHL. I implore you not to neglect these teams like they have been in the past. It is important that among the celebratory hashtags of "#hockeysback" we remember hockey never left. Only the NHL did.

Take action in any way you can, and for the moment, let us celebrate. The NHL is back. Games start Sunday, and the arenas that we consider second homes will be alive once again.



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