It was 113 days of torture for many. And so when the NHL lockout ended early Sunday morning, there was a ton of joy across the hockey map.
"It’s like a late Christmas present," said Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane Sunday in a telephone interview with The Free Press. "I’m just so excited to get back playing in the NHL. Everybody’s been waiting a long time. It’s good to finally have something done.
"I found out it had ended when a buddy of mine texted me late last night. I wasn’t on my phone, I was just watching some TV. He told me and I checked Twitter and everything was exploding. I switched channels on TV and saw they had come out with (NHL commissioner) Gary (Bettman) and (NHLPA executive director) Don (Fehr)... we haven’t seen that too often throughout this process so that was a positive sign."
Kane hadn’t finalized any travel plans to Winnipeg for this week. But like many across the league, there is an expectation training camps will open in a matter of days in order to accommodate at 48 or 50 game season.
The Jets’ top goal-scorer a year ago hasn’t played in a competitive game since being released by Dynamo Minsk of the KHL in mid-November. But he’s expecting it won’t take long to shake off the rust.
"For the most part guys have been trying to stay in the best shape they can," Kane said. "I’ve been skating and working out in the gym. But 700 guys (in the NHL) will tell you there’s no simulating an NHL game or the pace. I’m sure it will take some good, hard practices and a game or two to get back into things and get your timing back.
"You don’t really know what to expect. I haven’t skated with the guys for months now. I played a little bit over in the KHL and haven’t played since. The guys that have been playing will have a bit of an upper hand at the beginning, but I don’t think it would take everybody else too long to catch up and get back into things.
"I’m just happy to be back at it."