Reporting Holly Wagner
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Hockey fans have a spring in their step Monday morning as they can start dreaming about going to Minnesota Wild games again.
Over the weekend, the NHL and the player’s association reached a tentative agreement to end the lockout after more than 15 hours of negotiating. The NHL lockout started Sept. 16 after the previous collective bargaining agreement between the league and players expired.
Now, 114 days later, the 10-year deal still needs both the sides to vote before they can take the ice. That’s expected to happen by Wednesday, and the first Minnesota Wild game could be played here next week.
The scheduling still needs to be worked out, but there’s talk of having a 48 or 50 game season after a short training camp that’s expected to last about a week. It’s looking like the season would start on Saturday, Jan. 19, which fittingly is Hockey Day Minnesota.
The Wild players have stayed in shape during the lockout. Many of the Wild players have been practicing here in the Twin Cities at Ridder Arena at the University of Minnesota and at the St. Louis Park Rec Center. They rented their own ice time.
Some of their teammates went over to Europe and joined professional teams there on a temporary basis to stay in shape until the lockout was resolved. With the Vikings season now over, the timing of this deal is great and fans are eager to watch hockey again.
“We’re the state of hockey and to have a season without hockey in the state of Minnesota is like a day without sunshine,” said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. “As they say, it’s important for the state, it’s important for who we are.”
“Really the only thing we can say is we’re sorry. You know it’s a tough situation,” said Wild player Nate Prosser. “We obviously didn’t want it to go this long and especially with all of the buzz we had going this summer with the signings. You know we didn’t want this lockout to happen let alone be this long. I feel bad for the fans, I hope they come back with full support.”
Xcel Energy Center has 18,000-plus fans that fill the hockey arena on game night. It has several downtown businesses, especially bars and restaurants, thrilled that business will pick up again.