Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr

PHT’s top 13 of ’13: The lockout finally, mercifully ends

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We always felt they’d work it out and there would be some semblance of a season.

But still, when Gary Bettman said, “Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement,” there was a huge sense of relief that the two sides were able to come together. Because there was always that slight chance they wouldn’t and the NHL would go into a deep, dark hole again.

Looking back, the thought of another canceled season so soon after the last one — as foul and obnoxious as that thought may have been, given we had no particular interest in following the KHL playoffs or going out and getting real jobs  — was in fact what kept us so optimistic. Surely they wouldn’t do it again. As we wrote last Christmas while the work stoppage was still in full effect, “it would be so unfathomably foolish” to let it get to that point.

As writers, the lockout was not an enjoyable topic to cover. It certainly wasn’t why we got into the profession; we did that to avoid getting real jobs. Sure, we got to write the odd funny headline, like “Wingels is KooKoo for Finland,” and we’ll always be proud of that. But mostly our days were filled with rehashing what was said or done by the key figures in the dispute, trying to figure out why they said it or did it, then reading angry comments from people who didn’t care about the what or the why; they just wanted their hockey back.

If there was anything that surprised us about the lockout, it was how quickly everyone forgot about it. To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t even seem like it ended this year. So much has happened since Jan. 6, and the league doesn’t seem to have been damaged whatsoever.

Maybe that shouldn’t have surprised us though. Maybe it was as simple as this: Hockey fans love hockey, and they love watching the best players in the world play it. When that was taken away, there was anger. And when it was given back, there was still anger, but not enough for fans to stay away in protest. Because why do that to yourself? To make some sort of statement? Suffice to say, there are better (or worse, as the case may be) things in the world to protest than a professional sports lockout.

That being said, the NHL better not shut down again when the current CBA expires. That right there would be the death of the league. The fans would rise up. It would be a disaster of biblical proportions. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together.

OK, so those last few sentences were actually quotes from Ghostbusters. We just really, really…really don’t want to cover another lockout. Or get real jobs.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…

Parise rehabbing back injury without surgery, ‘no question’ he’ll play in World Cup

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 17:  Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 17, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Wild 7-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.

Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.

Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.

Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Penguins, Game 7

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning falls to the ice at the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Not much more to say than this:

GAME 7.

Puck drop is at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, but you can also catch the game online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

It’s been a ‘roller coaster’ — Pens, Bolts ready for Game 7

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

Video: Johnson pays the price for Tampa Bay