NHL sends memo to clubs indicating no camps before Saturday (and may not open until Monday), 48-game season to begin Jan. 19— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 7, 2013
While Friedman is writing that the games are set to start on Jan. 19, ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting that there is a chance that the season could start as early as Jan. 15 if everything goes well in the ratification process:
NHL sent out memo to teams tonight saying Jan 19 puck drop is most probable, however if ratification process goes fast, Jan 15 still in play— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 7, 2013
No schedule has been put into place by the league yet—it is still hammering out the details of the collective bargaining agreement and getting its own house in order—but Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun is reporting that the table of games should be available by the weekend:
The #NHL would like to have a schedule out by Thursday or Friday at the latest. Don't forget they've got a lot of work to do to sell tix.— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) January 6, 2013
As exciting as the return of the NHL is for fans, the lost time is still a blatant example of the disrespect shown to the fans throughout this process.
No matter what date the action starts back up, the fact that the All-Star festivities and Winter Classic were casualties of the selfishness in these negotiations proves the NHL and NHL Players’ Association don’t care enough about the people that pay their bills.
After the long lockout and the millions of fans alienated, the league will now try its best to fix the public-relations mess that it created during the battle for CBA supremacy.
While both the NHL and NHLPA feel they got the concessions they wanted from the other side, they are forgetting the damage done to the reputation of the league and the sport by allowing a majority of the season to be lost.
Fans can’t forget that this is third time in 20 years the league has mistreated them in this manner, and the new CBA the sides are trying to ratify is setting up for another lockout in eight years.
The release of the 48-game schedule will undoubtedly force the hardcore hockey fans back to the sport, but the severity of the damage done over the course of the lockout won’t be on full display until the league is forced to show the empty arenas across the NHL.
Certain hockey markets will have no problem selling out the buildings—Toronto, Philadelphia and Detroit, to name a few—but the overall numbers from this shortened season will likely be poor.
That’s what the league deserves, though.
Check back for more on the National Hockey League as it comes, and don’t miss Bleacher Report’s NHL page to get your fill of all things hockey.