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NHL fans excited as season gets underway

posted 20 Jan 2013, 04:30 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 20 Jan 2013, 04:30 ]

National Hockey League fans excited as season starts after four month labor dispute.

WINNIPEGMANITOBACANADA. (JANUARY 19, 2013)(CBC) -   The National Hockey League (NHL) was back and so were the fans on Saturday as the puck finally dropped on a season that nearly never was because of bitter labor dispute.

From sunny California to wintry Canada 26 of the NHL's 30 teams were in action, theLos Angeles Kings raising their Stanley Cup banner to the rafters before playing the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets meeting the rival Ottawa Senators at home.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association chief Donald Fehr, who had held the hockey spotlight through nearly four months of numbing negotiations, were nowhere to be seen as the players took the ice but some fans still hold a grudge against Bettman for the last four months of missed hockey.

"I would have paid anything to be here today," said Winnipeg Jets fan Sean O'Lincoln, who walked into the MTS Centre wearing a shirt that said "Fire Bettman".

In some American markets bitterness from the 113-day lockout is sure to linger but not in Canada where a hockey buzz swept across the country like a massive winter storm and fans welcomed back teams with open arms.

In Winnipeg, fan Sacha Rosen prepared by donning a new outfit to cheer on his beloved Jets.

"I'm here for life, Jets forever, go Jets go," Rosen said after walking into the MTS Centrefor the first time this season.

The return of the NHL also meant the return of hundreds of jobs as fans slipped into their favorite jerseys and packed bars and pubs, providing a jolt to local economies.

The league and teams have worked hard to win back disgruntled fans and their wallets, offering everything from free tickets and parking to discounts on beer, hotdogs and merchandise.

Jets owner Mark Chipman even went so far as to personally welcome the fans back before the game against the Senators.

"Thanks for coming back everybody."