After 301 days and 82 mostly acrimonious meetings our leaders of the hockey world have finally brokered a peace treaty. General Gary and General Bob finally signed off on the terms of surrender and the members of each side will check their pulses and ratify the deal by next week.
There are still many issues to clear up for the average hockey fan, the final terms not to be officially announced until the raftification votes. But as you can see in the following links there's enough rumour and innuendo to keep us going for the next seven days.
Eric Duhatscheks' report on the deal
What will happen with Sidney?
Draft Day dynamics
Preparing for the salary cap.
Who has a contract and who is up for grabs.
The players reaction
A lower starting wage
casualties of War
The Wrath of Grapes
When the deal turned
Worry over the fan reaction
Collapse of the PA?
Now the GM's must earn some pay
Christmas in July!
A free agency free for all?
Fear at the CBC? Cherry's ready to roar again!
The rich will still be the rich!
Buy and sell days ahead for the NHL
League heads for a recovery period
Yet there are still some questions for us to ponder. What will the amateur draft look like? Will the Rangers be given enough bouncing balls to successfully claim young Sidney? How many of your favourite players will be changing uniforms as each team tries to fit things under the new salary cap? Which of our old warhorses will find that the new NHL has no place for their weary bones and quietly they shall go off to their sunsets? Will Bob Goodenow survive as leader of the Players Association with his rank and file taking some sizeable pay cuts and having lost an entire season of pay.
Then there are the rule changes that are supposed to be coming our way. Smaller goaltender equipment, Floating red lines, another bid to cut down on the clutch and grab, some added overtime and increased playoff participation to name a few of the trial balloons we have heard about in the last 301 days. We soon shall find out what is fact or fiction.
But for now, yesterday's announcement that hockey is almost back on the ice was greeted by Canadians like Victory in Europe day, the sports networks dedicated enough air time to the announcement to qualify as a mini series. Sports radio finally had a topic to keep the lines jammed all day long. For the Canadian sports media the return of the NHL was greeted with the joy of Christmas, for finally some advertising may begin to pick up there is a huge gap in revenues thanks to the absence of hockey from September to the all important June Stanley Cup ratings bonanza, if even half the viewers and listeners return in September they still will be far ahead of most of the other programming that had to be offered up to fill time.
In the States it may be a completely different story however, there the game is a mess media wise. ESPN dropped the game after waiting in vain for the NHL and NHLPA to get their act together, that leaves the NHL with a cobbled together coalition of local pay tv channels and some strange lend lease arrangement with NBC where the NHL may get some cash after all the expenses are paid off, that knocks the NHL down to second or third tier sports.
So while the NHL celebrates it's version of peace in our time, there is now much work to be done to return the game to some semblance of its past glory. 301 days went by without hockey, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the game to bring recapture and build upon its fanbase!