Do you hear that sound? The crack of stick blades, the whoosh of freshly skated ice, and the sound of pucks barreling off the dashers? Hockey has returned, folks.
Back is the hard hitting, fast-paced sport that our neighbors to the north have given us. As famed play-by-play announcer Al Michaels once said when the United States defeated the Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" The good ol' game has returned.
Parents of youth hockey players no longer need to have the awkward discussion that begins with: "Daddy/Mommy, are the Bruins coming back?" Yes, little Johnny, they are, in due time -- in due time.
Hockey has been here, even if it wasn't the Boston Bruins or your favorite team. Local high schools have been waging battle while the professional players and owners were squabbling over their millions. The local high school players don't play for money, they play for the love of the game. Give the high school and college athletes credit for competing for the love of the sport and not a paycheck.
NHL owners and the player union reached a deal while many of us were asleep, and the details of the agreement have been released. Salary arbitration threshold to release players into free agency has increased from $1.75 million to $3 million.
The league minimum salary will remain at $525,000, and will increase in 2021 to $750,000. Perhaps the scariest thing about this deal is that we could see the same situation unfold in 2021. If both sides can't mutually agree on terms at the end of the 2019-2020 season, a lockout may be unavoidable.
I am an avid hockey fan, but I think a lot of people, like myself, are still jaded by how long it took ownership to reach a deal with the NHL Players Association. The little man was once again forgotten in this whole mess regarding the lockout. Businesses surrounding the TD Bank North Garden and other league arenas suffered significant financial losses with every missed home game.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has seen three -- yes, three -- lockouts during his tenure. He makes NBA commissioner David Stern look like a saint.
While details have yet to be announced, the word "tentative" has been tossed around. For now, the NHL has a deal in place after 16 consecutive hours of deliberation, hemming, hawing and, of course, finger-pointing.
As of right now, the plan is to have a season schedule in place starting Jan. 15, in which each team will play a schedule of 48-50 games, which is plenty, if you ask me. The Associated Press reports that the league lockout could cost NHL owners and franchises $1 billion in lost revenue. The Players Association will get their requested 50 percent of shared revenue, up two percentage points from the originally proposed 48 percent by the owners.
What will the NHL do to welcome many hurt hockey fans back to their arenas? I don't suspect ticket prices will be lowered. The average Bruins ticket in the nosebleeds of the balcony, after taxes, will run you about $30, multiply that by four and you have already spent $120 to take the family to a hockey game.
Franchises have a debt to pay to the fans who stuck by them through all three of the lockouts spanning across the last two decades. The Associated Press reported that the NHL's annual revenue is $3.3 billion, the lowest among American professional sports. Something needs to be done to restore faith in ownership and get the fans back in the seats. There will be some hardliners who will refuse to support the NHL, and their position is warranted.
Enough about the financial aspect of everything, what kind of shape are the players going to be in when the puck unofficially drops on Jan. 15? Training camp is expected to begin in about a week, and some players haven't been conditioning very much at all since the news of the lockout surfaced 118 days ago. Many went overseas to play, but some opted to stay home and participate in their own workouts with the team facilities being closed throughout the deliberations.
My Milan Lucic jersey will have to be dusted off, but so will the infamous goal horn at the Garden. Let's just say the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year: Will it mean the same with an asterisk next to it? I argue yes, because this trophy will have been much harder to achieve.