FRANKLIN, Tennessee – At first glance, Sunday morning looked like any other at Franklin’s A-Game Sportsplex. On one of the facility’s two sheets of ice hosted a youth game while the other featured a split-ice practice for two different teams.
But just hours earlier while all of the morning’s on-ice participants were fast asleep, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association agreed to an agreement in principle which will end the league’s lockout of its players, which has been in place since September 15th.
Following his team’s practice, Jeff Giblin, the head coach of A-Game’s Squirt Storm Select team was surprised to learn that it appears the NHL will be back in action in just a couple of weeks.
“For a couple of reasons I am really happy its back,” he said fresh off of the ice while wearing a Nashville Predators pullover. “One, and I am going to pick on my son Zachary a little here, I have noticed that in all previous years that his bedroom floor would always be covered in hockey cards. This is the first year that he is now collecting football cards and he is getting football posters. Did it make an effect on my son? Absolutely. This is huge to have the Predators back.”
Speaking of hockey cards, Giblin uses them as his form of payment to his players after a hard-fought effort during tournament games. Each time the kids get a new pack, they caucus in the rink or back at the team hotel to trade for their favorite players or players from their favorite teams.
Zachary, a center on the Squirt (ages nine and ten) Storm team, is looking forward to watching the Predators play again. He is disappointed that a few of his favorite players are no longer with the team, but he is still happy to see his hometown team get back at it. The last couple of seasons, Zachary has counted former Predator defenseman Francis Bouillon’s twin sons Michael and Anthony as teammates, so Bouillon’s absence from Nashville’s blue line in 2013 is a bit of a downer. He does list Shea Weber as his current favorite Predator.
Just days ago, Colleen Zonarich was lamenting the end of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament since it meant the end of actual hockey games to watch on television. Zonarich’s son Nathan plays on Giblin’s Storm team.
“Absolutely thrilled,” she said when asked about the NHL’s return. “We are very excited that we have something to watch and something to cheer for and essentially see whatever the remainder of the season can bring.”
As someone who has attended many Predator games in previous seasons, Zonarich plans on going back to Bridgestone Arena as soon as the first puck drops.
“Absolutely we are going back,” she said.