OK, so let's assume -- as nearly everyone already has -- that both the National Hockey League players and owners will ratify the new labor deal negotiated last weekend. Where do we go from there?
The short answer is that we move forward.
Yes, there was a lockout. Yes, it was ugly. Yes, there are some hard feelings on both sides of the negotiations as well as among the fan base. But time will eventually heal most of those wounds.
That certainly seems to be the attitude of the fans of the Bay Area's San Jose Sharks. Officials revealed earlier this week that very few season tickets had been relinquished during the strike. That is hardly surprising given that San Jose has a notoriously rabid fan base. Sellouts at Sharks games are the norm and it would appear that will be the case well into the future.
As we have said before, the ones hurt most by the lengthy lockout are the ones who can probably least afford it and who didn't have a seat at the bargaining table. They never do.
Merchants and businesses in and around San Jose -- restaurants, bars, hotels, souvenir shops and the like -- as well as the Sharks' own team employees, both in the offices and in operations on game day, are the ones who felt the most significant financial blows.
The Sharks' management -- one of the best in the NHL -- seems to get that point. Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson offered what he said was a sincere apology.
"Our players, staff, all of our people -- we care about our community and it's had an impact," Wilson said. "We have friends at restaurants, people who work in the building. There's been a real impact. That's beyond unfortunate. It's sad and it's been real."
Wilson was right on the money.
This episode indeed has been a sad one that we do not want to see repeated. Probably the best single aspect of the new collective bargaining agreement is that it is a 10-year deal, something the owners fought hard to get. Besides, the league is also in the very early stages of a 10-year television deal, which should mean that a league noted for disruptive labor actions should enjoy relative peace for the next decade of so.
Over the past 20 years, the NHL has canceled a far greater percentage of its scheduled games than either the National Basketball Association or Major League Baseball. In fact, the league canceled an entire season during the last negotiation.
So the 10-year deal can allow the game to flourish, which it had been doing lately.
The shortened 48-game season will not be perfect and it will have its complications as well as scheduling anomalies, much as the NBA did last year. But in the end, some season is better than no season.
And if the members of the Sharks are able to hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of the playoffs, there will be very little memory among the faithful of the shortened regular season.