The pair rushed back overnight to arrive in Fort Myers, Florida, early Sunday and hurriedly packed to leave for their anticipated NHL training camps.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press on Monday that the regular season likely will last 48 games.
The league has circulated a memo to teams telling them to be ready to play by Jan. 19, the date the shortened season is expected to start.
Forward Jamie Benn of Central Saanich, who returned recently from playing in Germany, is getting ready to restart his contract negotiations with the Dallas Stars that had to be postponed once the lockout began.
Port McNeill’s Willie Mitchell, meanwhile, can finally see that Los Angeles Kings 2012 Stanley Cup banner hoisted to the rafters of the Staples Center.
The holding pattern in the AHL, ECHL, CHL, Europe — or in the case of Mitchell and several of the Canucks players, in charity pick-up games at UBC — is over.
“It’s great news,” said O’Byrne, the Av’s player rep on NHLPA, who arrived in Denver on Monday.
“It was a long process but it’s a fair deal and a long way from that offer put on the table [by the owners] July 13. This indicates a decade of labour peace ahead [the deal is reportedly for 10 years] and [the details] give the low-revenue teams some certainty. I think we got it right this time. The players are just happy to get out there again and play in the NHL.”
The wait has been painful for all concerned but worth it, said Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie of Victoria, who spent the lockout collecting 27 points in 36 games for the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL.
“The players association did a great job. It’s a fair deal,” said Barrie.
Although the likes of O’Byrne, Barrie and Benn got in time with game speed in the AHL, ECHL or Europe, others like Mitchell and fellow Port McNeill blueliner Clayton Stoner of the Minnesota Wild could be rusty.
“I’m in mid-season shape and feel great,” said Barrie.
“But no matter what, these are all pros and all will be ready.”
And don’t tell these guys this won’t be a legitimate NHL season, with the eventual 2013 champion needing an asterisk.
“It absolutely is a real season,” said Barrie.
“It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a war like any other season.”
O’Byrne also predicted intense hockey.
“If you lose three games in a row, you could be fading out of the playoff picture,” he noted. “During the last NHL 48-game shortened season [1994-95], the players involved said it was fantastic hockey because every game meant so much.”
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