Don’t Ever Do This Again

NEW YORK – This was the most needless, unnecessary, and dumb lockout in the history of major American sports.

Finally, after 113 days of damaging acrimony, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association have come to a tentative deal. We will have NHL hockey within two weeks. The season could start in as little as nine days, and likely no later than January 19.

The deal is pending ratification from the NHL’s Board of Governors, and the NHLPA membership.

It is a ten-year CBA with a mutual opt-out after eight years. It includes a $64.3 million cap figure for the 2013-2014 season, includes an improved pension plan for the players, and … you really don’t care about any of the details, do you?

“Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” said Gary Bettman shortly before 6 a.m., Sunday morning. “We’ve got to dot a lot of I’s, cross a lot of T’s. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”

That’s the only detail we ever cared about. All we wanted was the NHL back on the ice. Finally, over three months later than it should have started, we’ve got our entertainment back.

So now, we can stop talking about collective bargaining. We can stop arguing whether Don Fehr is hurting the process, whether Jeremy Jacobs is hijacking the negotiation.

Now, it’s time to start talking about what impact Rick Nash will have on the Rangers, who are expected to be one of the Eastern Conference favorites. We can start talking about whether Jonathan Quick and the LA Kings can repeat as champions.

We can start talking about whether Martin Brodeur can lead the Devils through another long playoff run. We can start wondering whether Roberto Luongo will get traded from Vancouver. We can start wondering which teams will rise to the top in a race-to-the-finish 48 or 50-game season.

We can start doing what we’ve always just wanted to do. We can talk hockey.

What we need to talk about is figuring out how and why the NHL has done this again – the third lockout in 18 years. We need to question the league’s leadership; commissioner Gary Bettman has been the commissioner for all three of those lockouts, at best a dereliction of his duty as guardian of the sport.

Now, instead of watching Bettman give press conferences on the state of negotiations, we can watch him awkwardly award the Stanley Cup in June.

Now, instead of sticking cameras and notebooks in Don Fehr’s face, we can enjoy the thoughtful answers of the greatest athletes on earth.

“Hopefully within just a very few days, the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us,” said Fehr, in as big an understatement as has ever been made about hockey fans.

Welcome back, NHL. Just please, don’t ever do this again.

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