Minnesota Wild NHL Hockey is back. The players are hitting the ice today, employees are back to work and owners are ready to start counting piles of money. Do the teams of the NHL deserve us, the fans, back? Are we just going to come knuckling back through the turn styles, cash in hand, as if nothing has happened? Will we just go back to buying $5 Hot dogs, $8 beers, $200 Jerseys, and overpriced tickets that are never going down in price. Hey fans, remember at the end of the last lockout, Commissioner Gary Bettman said one of the effects of “Cost Certainty” would be lower ticket prices? That sure didn’t happen. We’ve been kicked to the curb twice in 8 years. Are we just going to come crawling back like whipped puppies licking at Craig Leipold and the player’s hands as if we are the ones who have done the wrong? That is exactly what Minnesota Wild ownership and the players are expecting. “We love the fans!” They say over and over and over. Well I for one don’t feel very loved. We pack the Xcel Energy Center game after game, year after year even when the product they were selling was less than stellar. We made the Minnesota Wild jersey one of the biggest sellers league wide year after year. Then as soon as it’s time for a new CBA lockout time is here. Bettman and his minions along with Fehr and the NHLPA leadership repeatedly talk about what is “Fair”. Really? Fair? What is fair about a 4-month long league shut down? What’s fair about that to the hourly employees of the Xcel, the employees of downtown St. Paul bars and restaurants, and what’s fair about that to the Wild’s fans? The answer is NOTHING. Players will still be paid big bucks, Owners now have CBA protection to protect them from themselves and the fans have no protection at all. It will be interesting to see what scraps are thrown the way of the fans as an apology. I hope we don’t see the “Welcome Back Fans” crap on the ice again. Remember that in ’05? Maybe we’ll see “Craig’s Hot Dog Stand” make another appearance. Anybody out there remember that stunt? Craig Leipold in a hat and apron with a warmer selling dogs for a dollar each up in the 200 level of the Xcel during the first season he bought the franchise. I doubt he’d have the balls to do that again after this lockout debacle. Fans won’t see him sitting among the common folk either. He’s used to do that in Nashville and occasionally in St. Paul. He’ll be ensconced in his security guarded suite keeping a big barrier between him and the fans. You can bet press access will be just as guarded as well. The players are eager to get back to work. Notice I’m saying work, not the cliched phrase, “The game they love“. I’m sure they missed the NHL with all it’s perks, free gear and excellent facilities. They are ready for a little ego stroking and idol worship from the people who pay their salaries. The big question is do the Minnesota Wild and the other 29 NHL teams deserve their fans back? One thing is for sure not all of us are coming back. The damage has been done and the recovery will not be as swift or as certain as the last time. I for one have been following NCAA college and AHL hockey like never before. Will I still be a fan of the NHL? The answer is yes, but not like before. Crap in my hand twice in 8 seasons and I’ll be a lot slower to stick my hand out. The new CBA is good for 8 years with 2 more years if both sides agree to it. Is anyone out there stupid enough to think those last two years are going to happen? Just get ready for another lockout in 2021 potentially the fourth work stoppage under commissioner Bettman. NHL Hockey is back. I’m glad to see it. I just hope the NHL and it’s players see the need to work to deserve our fan support. We the fans love hockey. Not because we’re paid to play it, not because we own a team, not because we make a living from it as an employee. Just because we love to see the game played at it’s highest level by players we love to follow. Does the Minnesota Wild deserve their fans back? I hope they work their asses off, on and off the ice, to show us they do.