The NHL announced Wednesday afternoon that the Board of Governors has unanimously voted to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement. Now, if the NHLPA follows suit as expected, hockey will officially be back in full force.
The only question is: will the fans be back in full force as well? Commissioner Gary Bettman, for one, understands people’s frustration.
"I do have a personal statement to make,” said Bettman. “To the players, who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labor contracts, to our partners who support the league financially and personally, and most importantly to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey I am sorry. I know that an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months, but I owe you an apology nevertheless."
Time may heal the wounds, but plenty has already been wasted. Time is not a luxury the NHL has. As such, many teams (including the Colorado Avalanche) haven’t waited for the ratification to take to the ice.
Yesterday, 13 players took to the ice at Family Sports in Centennial, Colo. Included in the group was ex-Avs Marek Svatos, Peter Budaj and Kyle Quincey. Today, the number jumped to 17, and they were all Avalanche. Included in the group were newcomers PA Parenteau, Greg Zanon and John Mitchell.
Leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly is still in Russia, as he awaits a new deal with the Avs (rumor has it the two sides are talking). In fact, he had three points in yesterday’s action; giving him nine is as many contests.
Also missing was starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov posted the top goaltending numbers in the KHL during the lockout, and was also best among locked out goaltenders. This may raise some eyebrows as others look to stay in Russia. Fret not, as he is no longer listed on the KHL All-Star rosters. Mike Chambers of the Denver Post also reports he is en route, and should arrive later tonight.
How the Avs will fare in this campaign however, remains a mystery.