DETROIT (AP) — Hockeytown was abuzz with talk Sunday about the return of the Detroit Red Wings after a 113-day lockout that threatened to cancel the entire NHL season.
The players association and the league reached a tentative settlement early Sunday after a marathon overnight bargaining session. The 10-year deal paves the way for an abbreviated 2012-13 season.
At downtown Detroit's R.U.B. BBQ Pub, manager Chris Eid said he was "ecstatic" when he got the news.
The return to NHL action was a big topic of conversation among his patrons Sunday afternoon, Eid said.
"Everyone misses hockey, and now we're getting it back," said Eid.
The restaurant and bar runs a shuttle service to Joe Louis Arena for Wings games.
"We do have a very loyal Red Wings fan base here," he said.
Eid said the business benefits from being close to the Tigers' Comerica Park, the Lions' Ford Field and the Fox Theatre, have helped take the edge off the effects of the hockey shutdown.
"The hockey lockout affected us a little bit," he said. "Thank God that we have our loyal customers coming in for lunch and dinner."
League and union lawyers will spend the next few days drafting a memorandum of agreement. The exact length of the curtailed schedule hasn't been determined, but the regular season is expected to be about 60 percent the length of normal.
Anchor Bar proprietor Vaughn Derderian was excited at the prospect of a resumption of play at nearby Joe Louis.
"I really love the game, and I really like being part of it," he told WWJ-AM.
Merchants weren't the only ones revved up at the impending resumption of NHL play.
"I'm so excited I can't believe it," veteran Red Wings coach Babcock told The Detroit News. "Any negotiations are tough and we knew it would be. Nothing is easy. But the league and the players have worked on this, they've worked something out, and now, let's get going."
One might expect excitement as well at the area's premier Red Wings bar, Hockeytown Cafe, but staffers weren't very chatty Sunday.
"We can't talk to you. We'll get fired on the spot," said an employee who declined identification. A reporter was referred to "headquarters," which turned out to be the office of Red Wings spokesman John Hahn. A phone message was left for him.
In suburban Royal Oak, where TV screens at The Rock on 3rd were filled with NFL playoffs and college basketball, manager Carl Ruffino said he had mixed feelings about the tentative deal. From a business perspective, he was happy at the return of hockey, but from a personal view, he said he resented the foot-dragging by owners and well-paid athletes that cost fans a big chunk of the season.
"Why can't you settle this thing in August, rather than January?" he asked. "Now everyone's scrambling to save a season and save their wallets. "I hope we make a statement and stay away for the first month."