The NHL lockout appears to be winding down, and former Ohio State men’s hockey players could be returning to a professional arena near you. Exactly when that will happen is still being decided.
Sunday marked the 113th day of the NHL’s lockout, and at 6 a.m., league commissioner Gary Bettman and player’s union executive director Donald Fehr emerged from a more than 16-hour-long negotiating session at Sofitel Hotel in New York City to announce that the league’s team owners and players have agreed on the basic structure for a new collective bargaining agreement. Bettman said that details for the new CBA, a league labor contract that imposes working standards for players, are not available yet. The main point of Bettman and Fehr’s joint address was to make it clear that the NHL is close to a return.
“We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” Bettman said during a press conference. “We have to dot a lot of ‘I’s,’ cross a lot of ‘T’s.’ There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon … We still have more work to do, but it’s good to be at this point.”
Fehr agreed with Bettman, adding that he hopes the deal can be officially completed shortly.
“Hopefully, we’re at a place where all those things will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch and we’ll get back to what we used to call business as usual as fast as we can,” Fehr said.
Information regarding the start date for the shortened 2013 season was not made available during Bettman and Fehr’s press conference.
In the absence of the world’s top professional hockey league throughout the fall and early winter days, OSU men’s hockey alumni scattered themselves throughout the minor league ranks or took on other endeavors. All of them can now set their sights on returning to NHL play, or competing for the chance to do so.
Former Buckeye and current Columbus Blue Jackets left winger R.J. Umberger spent his time on the OSU bench during the current collegiate hockey season as a volunteer coach. Umberger, who has scored 143 career goals in the NHL, did not return The Lantern’s Sunday request for comment. A 20-goal or greater scorer in each of his first three seasons in Columbus, Umberger figures to feature in the Blue Jackets offense again when the team resumes play.
Other former Buckeyes, such as goaltender Cal Heeter, will continue fighting for NHL ice time in minor leagues. In his first year of professional hockey, Heeter, an OSU netminder from 2008-2012, plays with the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Phantoms. There, Heeter has posted five wins, 10 losses and one shootout loss in 16 games for the Philadelphia Flyers’ minor league affiliate. During a March interview with The Lantern, Flyers director of hockey operations, Chris Pryor, said the lack of goaltending depth in the organization would allow Heeter a chance to compete for NHL playing time.
“We think (Heeter’s) got a lot of potential … we’re extremely high on him,” Pryor said. “He’s got a great opportunity in our organization. We think he’s got a bright future.”
In an email to The Lantern, Zack Hill, the Flyers’ director of communications, said NHL rules prohibited him from coordinating “any interviews until the NHL officially (announces) that the lockout has ended.”
Bettman said that more details of the new CBA would be available later on Sunday.