After a lengthy, and mostly unnecessary, lockout, it's finally going to be a hockey night in Pittsburgh.
At 5 a.m. Sunday morning, something wonderful happened. Two sides that bickered endlessly in perhaps the silliest work stoppage in all of sports (and possibly in the history of labor) finally came to an agreement on terms that could have been settled, in say, July. No more talk about escrow, or HRR, or federal mediators. Now we can finally, finally, talk about things on the ice.
Before we do, we should remember that there are no winners in this situation. Don Fehr looks bad. Gary Bettman may look even worse. The owners look greedy. The players look greedy. Issues that could have been resolved months ago were agreed upon before sunrise on January 6, 2013. Why? Because they knew we'd be back. I guess it's one of the downfalls of having some of the most loyal fans in all of sports. I'm almost surprised they didn't cancel the season knowing that we would still show up next season. Instead, the deal was brokered and names will appear on the cup.
We should also remember the workers, hundreds and thousands of nameless workers, who keep the arenas clean, take your ticket, pour your beers before the game, pour your beers during the game, and throw away your trash. These people have been out of work, or have seen significantly less work, in the past four months. What the NHL did to those people was unfair, and if anyone has the right to be angry, it's them.
It looks like we'll have a 48 or 50 game season. The NHL season is usually a marathon and a grind, but now we're going to see a sprint to the playoffs. Intra-divisional games will be plentiful. Rivalries will be front and center. It's going to be hockey at its best. Frantic, frenzied, and competitive. As Penguins fans, we're going to see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, in their prime, tear through the NHL with an intensity never seen before. We get to talk about wingers for Sid. The trade deadline is probably a few weeks away. We'll finally see Brandon Sutter in a Pens sweater. And yes, we'll be able to blame Paul Martin for everything bad that happens.
Hockey is finally back. And for some, it has a whole different meaning. Let's drop the puck. It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh.