NHL, Columbus Blue Jackets Fans Get Back Their Game

The Columbus Blue Jackets soon will be back on the ice after deal was struck following a 113-day lockout.(Photo: Flickr)
The Columbus Blue Jackets soon will be back on the ice after deal was struck following a 113-day lockout.(Photo: Flickr)

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 players’ association finally came to terms early Sunday morning.

A majority of the league’s owners and union’s 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.

“I was just like, ‘Oh, cool!”

That’s 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 daughter’s hockey game at the Chiller Ice Rink at Easton when he saw the news.

The girls’ 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.

“Hopefully we’ll 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, I’m from Pittsburgh, but I love the fact that I can watch NHL hockey again.”

Nearby, Mitch Gargac hugged and reassured his daughter that she played a fine goalie, especially for only the second time. Gargac, who’s glad the strike is over, has mixed feelings about the outcome.

“Very 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.

“I love our Blue Jackets here in Columbus, but I’m not certain my money’s going to go back to the NHL,” Gargac said. “Both 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.”

The lockout may have hurt the Blue Jackets. The last place team was already struggling to attract fans. And the lock out wiped out Columbus’s chance to host the NHL All Star Game.

Hockey granddad and fan Fred Card, has also seen the economic impact.

“I’m in the restaurant equipment business, and I’m 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.

“Business had slowed down, just from general comments. And being down there New Year’s Eve ourselves, it was kind of quiet.”

Charles Giles, of Columbu,s and his wife, Amy, are partial season ticket holders. They’re both looking forward to Jackets’ games again and hockey labor peace for ten years.

“I think it’s terrible they’ve done this twice in seven years like they have. So I think it’s great that they can promise that far out,” Charles Giles said.

Amy Giles added, “I think that’s the key is that we don’t want to go through this again. And hopefully we won’t have to deal with this for a long time.”

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.

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