NHL HOCKEY IS BACK (probably)! Plus thanks to all the lower-tier levels of hockey for keeping us sane throughout this abomination.

As per TSN, after a marathon 16 hour overnight session – following 113 days of ridiculous, callous back-and-forths between stubborn owners and seemingly more stubborn players – the NHL lockout is officially (though tentatively) over.  Huzzah!

Finer details still are to be worked out, but the framework is apparently all there.  There are reports that part of the reason for the intense bargaining over the last week was due to the NHL’s sponsors putting pressure on Commissioner Gary Bettman to revive the game, as there may be considerable damage to the league’s reputation.

The deal is for 10 years, with an opt-out possibility after 8 years, which is good news following months of the two sides demanding deals as short as 5 years – we hopefully won’t have to go through this mess again for a long time.  One of the primary concerns in the last few hours of bargaining was the upper-limit of the salary cap, which the league wanted to lower to $60m, but the players wanted at $65m.  The league capitulated and the two sides agreed at $64.3m (this being for the 2013-14 season; the remainder of this season will be played at $70m).

As for us fans?  Well, we get the highest level of our favourite sport back, but I suspect not without at least a tinge of bitterness for the lack of appreciation both sides showed their income-providers throughout this process.

Personally, whilst I missed having NHL hockey (though I didn’t miss 3am puck-drops!), I didn’t go as insane as I thought I would.  For that, I think we must thank all lower level tiers of hockey, who are all just as valuable to the hockey community as the NHL (in no particular order): the KHL, AHL, ECHL, C(entral)HL, C(anadian)HL, BCHL, AJHL, NCAA, CIS, EIHL, SEL, Czech Extraliga, Swiss-A, Austrian League, SM-Liiga, World Junior Championships, and many more.  You showed us that there’s more to hockey than the NHL, and I hope people who filled their usual NHL time with those leagues doesn’t forget about them.

I also think thanks are in order to the highly talented bloggers (no, I’m not praising myself here) around the globe who actually still managed to find crap to talk about during these painful few months.  No easy task.  The likes of Lowetide, Copper N Blue, OilersNation, BlackDogHatesSkunks and more kept me from being totally fed up with hockey.

Now, a formal start-date for the season has yet to be announced, and they still have to ratify the agreement, but for all intents and purposes, the deal is done.

So let’s get back to it.

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