Triangle fans: 'Hockey's back, baby!'
Posted January 6, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — NHL fans tailgating in the PNC Arena parking lot Sunday expected just to take in a game by the Checkers, the Hurricanes’ minor league affiliate in Charlotte.
Instead, they also got to celebrate the end to a nearly four month-long dispute over salary caps and pensions that had so far canceled all NHL games this season.
"Hockey's back, baby!" yelled tailgater Sam Montgomery-Blinn, of Durham.
Fan Jan Lapp said she was in a church service when someone whispered the news of a deal to her.
"I forgot to tell the minister," Lapp said. "I do remember going over to the Sunday school room and told this young lady, 'Hey, it looks like we’re going to play hockey again!'"
The exact schedule has yet to be worked out, but teams will likely play 48 to 50 games this year.
The 113 ice-free days took their toll on some fans’ enthusiasm.
"It's a joke that it lasted this long," said fan Hank Barnes. "I think the owners were asking way too much out of the players."
"My kids have been asking me since the summer basically, when is there going to be more hockey to play?" Montgomery-Blinn said. "I might hold a little grudge, but I can’t lock my kids out of the game."
While tailgating Sunday, Barnes, of Morrisville, speculated that the lockout could cause the Canes to lose some fans.
"Probably casual fans. People go on and do other things," he said. "I'’m not as diehard as I was before the lockout."
His wife, Connie Barnes, though, declared that she remains "a thousand percent" diehard fan of the Canes. "I love the Canes and everything about them," she said.
The agreement must still be ratified by the NHL's owners and players. Games could begin within the next two weeks.
"It's going to be a short season. But at least we have our hockey for the season," hockey fan Jason Allen said. "Can't wait to see the Canes back in action."