The tentative settlement of the NHL’s labor dispute with the players’ association in the early hours of Sunday morning had 42-year-old Ducks winger Teemu Selanne as excited as a kid who had just found a treasured but lost toy, while Kings enforcer Kevin Westgarth pondered how close the league and union came to not reaching the agreement that will put players back on the ice for training camps this week.
Selanne, a future Hall of Famer, said by phone Sunday that he was delighted to hear that the league-imposed lockout will soon end and that he can return to the ice.
“I think everybody is very excited and very happy it’s over,” he said. “It’s something you don’t want to go through again. Hopefully we can move on and be a hockey family again and play the greatest game on Earth.”
Selanne said he had skated three or four times a week during the lockout, which began Sept. 15. He said the sessions, which united rival players from the Kings and Ducks, were good preparation for a start-up that will happen fairly quickly.
The new collective-bargaining agreement must be put on paper and ratified by both sides in the coming days, and if that can be streamlined camps could open this coming weekend. The NHL has not yet published a schedule — each team is expected to play 48 or 50 games, all within their respective conferences — but is likely to make that announcement later Sunday or Monday.
“I’m very happy we did a lot of practicing with the Kings’ guys. Without those guys it would not have been fun,” Selanne said. “We had only four, five, six guys sometimes and it’s really hard to do much. When we skated with them we had 14 to 20 guys. It was very important we got those guys.”
The Kings and Ducks managed to put aside their differences and work together, a feat that took the NHL and NHLPA much longer to accomplish. And Westgarth, who participated in many of the negotiating sessions — including the final few days and the 16-plus-hour sessions that ended with the agreement in principle early Sunday — said there were times he wasn’t sure where things would end up.
“It felt like driving your car on the edge of a cliff. We could still get to where we had to go, but at any moment we could fall of the edge,” he said in a text message.
“We are all extremely happy to have made it over the hill. It’s going to be quick change out of our suits and into our skates, as well.”
Kings winger Dustin Penner was happy to learn about the resolution.
“I am ecstatic to be employed once again and eagerly await the start of the new season and a chance at defending our city’s title for the fans,” he said in a text message. “Go Kings Go.”
Kings captain Dustin Brown said early Sunday that he was scrambling to find a flight back to Los Angeles from Switzerland, where he had played for the Zurich Lions during the lockout
“Happy to get this done,” he said, adding that he hoped to return on Monday.
Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, who joined Mora IK of Sweden’s Allsvenskan League, tweeted that he was making a hasty return to North America. “That was fast, one minute I'm busing to our next game and the next I'm standing with my bags in hand at a random train station,” he said.
Ryan’s teammate in Mora, Kings center Anze Kopitar, is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the knee injury he suffered Saturday. The Kings will immediately get a copy of the test. Initial indications were that it wasn’t serious and would keep him out two to three weeks.