Richards hopes fans come back
© Associated Press photo
New York Rangers’ Brad Richards is ready for the 2013-14 NHL season.
Hockey players, fans and business owners across P.E.I. are elated at the tentative deal reached Sunday between the NHL and players association to end a four-month lockout and see their favourite pro sport resume play next week.
Murray Harbour's Brad Richards, a star forward for the New York Rangers, said he is excited by the news that came down early Sunday.
“It's finally nice to have an agreement in place," Richards told The Guardian in an email. "Obviously sooner would have been better, but that's in the past and we have to look forward.
"I can only hope that fans will come watch our great game again and see hockey as the sport we love, not the things that have gone on the past four months."
The two sides reached the tentative deal after a marathon 16-hour negotiating session Sunday morning. The deal ends 113 days of the players being locked out.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
The resolution quickly became the story of the day, with the news being welcomed by fans and business owners.
Ise's Sports Bar locations in Charlottetown and Montague are two major watering holes for Island sports fans.
Mike Roberts, GM for the Charlottetown location, said individuals at the bar were "extremely excited" in wake of the news.
"It's great, especially for our patrons. Now they have something to watch, obviously hockey is our biggest sport on P.E.I.," Roberts said.
Roberts noted the bar is already making plans for a party to kick off the season's opening night, which will be sometime between Jan. 15 to 19.
"Just to kick the hockey season off and to get people at Ise's to watch Canada's favourite sport," said Roberts.
"I can only hope that fans will come watch our great game again and see hockey as the sport we love, not the things that have gone on the past four months." Brad Richards, New York Rangers hockey player and Murray Harbour native
Guardian sports columnist Fred "Fiddler" MacDonald said while he wished the two sides reached an agreement sooner, he was happy to see the lockout end for the sake of those who depend on the sport for a living, including players, employees of rinks and other businesses associated with NHL games.
"A lot of people depend on hockey for a living, so good for them," MacDonald said.
While there has been speculation over dropping fan attendance following the league's fourth work stoppage since 1992, MacDonald said he doubts any Canadian teams will be hurt by the lockout aftermath.
"They (Canadian teams) will pack the place back up. If fans are still going to games in Toronto and packing the place with the teams they've put out in the last five years, that tells you right there," said MacDonald.
However, MacDonald said he expects some of the "iffy" hockey markets in the U.S., such as Phoenix and Florida, will be hurt by a drop in attendance.
"Those teams are going to be the markets in trouble" MacDonald said, predicting it could eventually lead some teams to relocating to Quebec City or southern Ontario. "Eventually what will happen, is it will put more teams in Canada."
Ellerslie native Morgan Ellis, a Montreal Canadiens prospect playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs this season, is also looking forward to things returning to normal.
“Thank God the NHL is finally back, just wasn't right not watching Coaches Corner on a Saturday night,” the defenceman tweeted Sunday morning.
Check The Guardian sports section online and in the newspaper on Monday for more on the NHL agreement.