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Professional Hockey Returns After Three Month Hiatus

For 119 days, hockey fans were denied their fix of power play goals, last-second saves, and the drama of dropped gloves for a fist fight. Now, almost two weeks into the 2013 season, hockey fanatics can watch the sport almost every night of the week as the National Hockey League scrambles to squeeze in an adequate amount of games into this dramatically shortened season.

The NHL came to a standstill this fall during a lock out over a labour dispute between the NHL and the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players’ Association). The two parties failed to reach a consensus on the terms of their CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) by the date of the previous CBA’s expiration on Sept 16, 2012.

Negotiations over the CBA surrounded issues of player shares of hockey-related revenue, player contract regulations, free agent restrictions, and signing bonuses. The season that was scheduled to begin on Oct. 11, 2012 was postponed until Jan. 19, 2013, while these issues were discussed.

“I tried to figure out what they were struggling to negotiate. On NHL.com they didn’t have a lot of details,” sophomore Bryce Costley, an avid Los Angeles Kings fan, said.

The two parties came to an agreement on Jan. 6, after about 16 hours of continuous negotiations. Six days later, the CBA was officially ratified, and just 8 days later the previously locked out players were competing in the first games of the season.

“It [the lock out] was horrible. Especially because the Kings are the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, and I was so excited for the start of the season but they prolonged it for three months,” Costley said.
“All I knew is that it was gone, and now it’s back. I just wondered where hockey went,” sophomore Kari Olk said. A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Olk grew up playing pond hockey and sometimes watching the NHL. I like watching the games. The Minnesota Wild, man. Can’t go wrong with good old MN.”

The season opened with the presentation of championship rings and the  raising of the championship banner at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Before the puck hit the ice for the game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions paraded out on the ice to hold up the Cup in front of their fans. The Kings went on to lose 5-2.  Also opening the season was a matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburg Penguins, which the Penguins won 3-1.

The condensed 2013 season will contain just 48 games per team, and will end after just four months of play on April 27. A typical season is 82 games, some of which are inter-conference–these matchups have been excluded from the 2013 schedule. Bay Area hockey is dominated by the local San Jose Sharks, who are currently 5-0-0. Their next game is tonight, Jan. 31, at HP Pavilion in San Jose. The Sharks take on the Edmonton Oilers at 7:30 p.m., broadcast live on CSN-CA.