PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Flyers All-Star Claude Giroux received the wakeup call he waited to hear for 113 days.
Locked out for months, the NHL was indeed ready to drop the puck.
“It’s a beautiful day for Hockey,” he posted Sunday on Twitter.
Call the overseas players and tell them to come on home to New Jersey and Pennsylvania and other states where the NHL only existed in the form of messy labor updates. The NHL and the players’ association agreed on a tentative pact to end the lockout and save what is left of a fractured schedule.
Let the training camps begin.
“I’m ready to play,” Flyers veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “We’re just waiting for the season to get started. It’s been a long four months.”
But, finally, fans can stop thinking about board rooms and talking heads dressed in suits. Rather, it’s time to get ready for Sid the Kid. It’s time for the Los Angeles Kings to go defend the Stanley Cup. It’s time to watch your team play, oh, about four times per week.
Sure, the Winter Classic was wiped out. The All-Star game went bust.
But at 48 or 50 games, it’s still hockey at the highest level.
One of the questions that arises now, of course, and after any sort of stoppage for that matter, is will the fans come back? This is the third labor dispute in Commissioner Gary Bettman’s tenure, and though the fans returned in the past, the jury is out this time.
NHL fan Steve Chase started the grass roots “Just Drop It” campaign that encouraged fans to skip one NHL game for every game canceled after Dec. 21st. He asked fans to pledge they would not spend a penny or a minute of their time on tickets, TV, merchandise, all things NHL.
Nearly 21,000 fans had clicked the “like” button on the group’s Facebook page by Sunday afternoon. And Chase, who lives in Los Angeles, wrote on the site he would stay true to his commitment.
“AS IT STANDS RIGHT NOW: Games canceled from Dec 21 to Jan 14th average out to 10 per team,” he wrote. “They took 10 from us, we’ll take 10 from them. No tickets, no TV, no merchandise.”
Chase said there was growing sentiment among his friends to skip the entire season. He said the league and players didn’t think enough about the part-time employees and local businesses who needed the sport to help survive the winter months.
“Look at all the bars around the rinks and all the shops that sold jerseys. They’re all getting killed,” he said by phone. “We kept promoting, go to those bars and buy pizza. Keep them going. When hockey comes back, you’re going to want somewhere to go.”