DETROIT — Now the real work begins.
With the NHL lockout settled early Sunday morning after a marathon session, the players know now they have to win back the fans.
“There are no heroes,” Wings forward Danny Cleary said. “The key now is to get our fan base back. The job of the players is to put a good product on the ice. We’ve got to play hard for the fans, for our teammates.
“It will be difficult to win fans back, but I’ve always believed hockey has a loyal following,” Cleary continued. “They proved that the last time lockout. I believe we lost fans, there’s no question about that. We’re not going to feel the effects until next year.”
A lockout whipped out the entire 2004-05 season. It was the fourth work stoppage in the last 21 year.
“It was a great morning, everybody’s fired up,” said Cleary, who found out about the settlement when he woke up at 8 a.m. on Sunday. “Anytime you get good news like that you’re excited. We just want to get going.”
This lockut lasted 113 days and cost the Wings the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 and Columbus from hosting the All Star Game. The league has already said that the University of Michigan will be the site for next year’s outdoor event.
“Fans run the show,” Cleary said. “Without them, nothing happens. I feel bad for the fans throughout the league. All I can say is sorry, but we’re back. At the end of the day, we need the fans.
“There were times when it looked like there wasn’t much hope,” Cleary said. “We always believed the drop dead date would be sometime in the middle of January and it came true. I think everybody felt there was no way we could have another canceled season.”
Cleary, along with Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard are heading to Arizona to take part in a week-long training camp with about 40 other NHL players.
“The fans deserve the game back,” Kronwall said. “They’ve been holding out hope for so long. We completely understand their frustrations boiling up. The players and owners were involved with us getting to this point.
“We’re looking forward to getting on the ice and playing in front of our fans again,” Kronwall continued. “So far the fans we’ve me during this whole process have been really supportive. Hopefully our fans will come back and keep watching us play. That’s what we’re hoping for and love to play in front of them.”
Cleary and Kronwall weren’t certain when “training camp” would open for the Wings, but he has heard it could be Saturday.
“This is unchartered waters for almost all of us,” Cleary said when asked how the players are going to go about getting back into shape for the season. “I don’t know what to expect. We’ll need a lot of communication from coaches, management and trainers. When you’ve got two-thirds of the team not playing, you got to be careful with injuries, rest and nutrition. That’s never been more critical than it is now.
“It’s going to take time, but we’ve got a week to prepare,” Cleary added. “We’re professionals. We’ got to be ready to go.”
If the Wings open camp before the end of the workouts in Arizona would return.
“We’re told there are a lot of guys (in Arizona) that will help rev up our game and get us going at a good pace,” Kronwall said. “We’ve had some pretty decent skates in Troy. Everyone did a good job. Once we hit the ice with the team hopefully we’ll be up and running.”
The season will last either 48 or 50 games.
Several Wings – Henrik Zetterberg, Damien Brunner, Valttteri Filppula, Pavel Datsyuk, Drew Miller, Jan Mursak and Jakub Kindl – have been playing in Europe during the lockout and are expected to be back in time for training camp to open.
“This whole process has been a rollercoaster,” Kronwall said. “There were days that we thought a deal was really close and we would have a deal the next day. Then there were times I didn’t see a deal ever getting done. Emotionally it’s been up and down. It was very frustrating at times, but at the same time going through this we really wanted to get something done that was right. Now we just have to get it all on paper and getting to a vote.”
Here are highlights of the deal according to tsn.ca
- The players’ share of hockey-related revenue will drop from 57 percent to a 50-50 split for all 10 years.
- The league came off its demand for a $60 million cap in Year 2, meeting the NHLPA’s request to have it at $64.3 million – which was the upper limit from last year’s cap. The salary floor in Year 2 will be $44 million.
- The upper limit on the salary cap in the first year is $60 million, but teams can spend up to $70.2 million (all pro-rated). The cap floor will be $44 million.
- The 10-year deal also has an opt-out clause that kicks in after eight years.
- Each team will be allowed two amnesty buyouts that can be used to terminate contracts after this season and next season. The buyouts will count against the players’ overall share in revenues, but not the team’s salary cap.
- The salary variance on contracts from year to year cannot vary more than 35 per cent and the final year cannot vary more than 50 per cent of the highest year.
- A player contract term limit for free agents will be seven years and eight years for a team signing its own player.
- The draft lottery selection process will change with all 14 teams fully eligible for the first overall pick. The weighting system for each team may remain, but four-spot move restriction will be eliminated.
- Supplemental discipline for players in on-ice incidents will go through NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan first, followed by an appeal process that would go through Gary Bettman. For suspensions of six or more games, a neutral third party will decide if necessary.
- Revenue sharing among teams will spread to $200 million. Additionally, an NHLPA-initiated growth fund of $60 million is included.
- Teams can only walk away from a player in salary arbitration if the award is at least $3.5 million.
- The NHL had hoped to change opening of free agency to July 10, but the players stood firm and it remains July 1 in the new agreement. But with a later ending to the season, free agency for this summer will start at a later date.