NHL, Columbus Blue Jackets Fans Get Back Their Game
Columbus Blue Jackets fans and hockey fans all over are celebrating the end of the 113-day NHL lockout. Marathon negotiations during the weekend ended with a collective bargaining agreement that promises no more labor strife for the next decade. WOSU found some happy fans at a Columbus skating rink. The hockey season, or about half of it, was saved after the NHL and the playersâ association finally came to terms early Sunday morning. A majority of the leagueâs owners and unionâs members still have to approve the 10-year deal. But, hey, those are just details. Most fans are just thrilled to have the game back. âI was just like, âOh, cool!â? Thatâs how Robert Card reacted as he watched a ticker run along the bottom of his TV screen Sunday morning stating a deal was struck. Card was leaving for his daughterâs hockey game at the Chiller Ice Rink at Easton when he saw the news. The girlsâ hockey game just wrapped up. And parents, like Card, stand by the locker rooms to greet their little players who come out pulling over-sized equipment bags sometimes bigger than the children. Card is excited as he talks of the potential for the season which is set to start in a couple weeks and have about 50 games. âHopefully weâll get some good hockey now going and get some streaks. Blue Jackets might be able to get some good teams together," Card said. "And hopefully make a chance for the post season. Myself, Iâm from Pittsburgh, but I love the fact that I can watch NHL hockey again.â? Nearby, Mitch Gargac hugged and reassured his daughter that she played a fine goalie, especially for only the second time. Gargac, whoâs glad the strike is over, has mixed feelings about the outcome. âVery disappointed though for the first half of the season, how things shook out between the owners and the players," he said. And certainly, as other fans are doing right now, Gargac is contemplating whether he will keep his five season tickets. âI love our Blue Jackets here in Columbus, but Iâm not certain my moneyâs going to go back to the NHL,â? Gargac said. âBoth my children play, and I may take the money and put it into something else. I can have as much fun here at Easton and Columbus Chiller watching the children play than I can watch the million dollar salaries on the ice not play.â? The lockout may have hurt the Blue Jackets. The last place team was already struggling to attract fans. And the lock out wiped out Columbusâs chance to host the NHL All Star Game. Hockey granddad and fan Fred Card, has also seen the economic impact. âIâm in the restaurant equipment business, and Iâm glad for the restaurants to get back to work for the hockey games going on," he said. Card spends a good deal of time in the Arena District where businesses suffered without the NHL. âBusiness had slowed down, just from general comments. And being down there New Yearâs Eve ourselves, it was kind of quiet.â? Charles Giles, of Columbu,s and his wife, Amy, are partial season ticket holders. Theyâre both looking forward to Jacketsâ games again and hockey labor peace for ten years. âI think itâs terrible theyâve done this twice in seven years like they have. So I think itâs great that they can promise that far out," Charles Giles said. Amy Giles added, âI think thatâs the key is that we donât want to go through this again. And hopefully we wonât have to deal with this for a long time.â? The sticking point in the negotiations was the salary cap for the next season. It reportedly will be set at $64.3 million. The NHL avoided the embarrassment of losing a second season due to a labor dispute. A lockout eight years ago that ushered in a salary-cap system to hockey for the first time wiped out the entire 2004-05 season the only time a North American sports league did so.