A pre-holiday wish for National Hockey League action has become a reality.
Owners and players reached a tentative agreement in the middle of the night Saturday, and the puck may be dropping for the San Jose Sharks as soon as January 15.
More likely, January 19 will signal the start of the abbreviated NHL season in 2013, with teams playing a 48-game schedule. In all, 510 regular-season games were lost to the labor strife, the second-biggest work stoppage in league history.
Only the cancelled 2004-05 season was worse for hockey fans.
As a result of the games and time lost, the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs are expected to stretch into the end of June to account for the delayed start and compressed season.
The Sharks won't really care, if they can manage to put together a deep playoff run like they have so often done in the past decade.
For eight straight seasons, San Jose has been in the NHL postseason, and in three of those playoff years, the Sharks went all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
Of course, they have never made it all the way to the Cup Finals, so hopes will be high in San Jose once more for these 2013 playoffs.
Last time we saw the Sharks, however, they were eliminated in the first round of the 2012 postseason in five games by the St. Louis Blues. The memory of the disappointing second half of the regular season and the early playoff departure should drive the team to something better this year.
Yet every team in the NHL will be focused on this relative sprint to possible Stanley Cup glory -- the Sharks have some talent and playoff experience on their side, obviously, much more so than most franchises.
What the San Jose organization can do with those advantages in 2013 remains to be seen, but it will be fun to watch the Sharks on ice once again at HP Pavilion -- and soon.