The management of the Edmonton Oilers say the team is in good shape and eager to get back on the ice, despite four long months of a lockout.
Both team management and players expressed relief after Sunday’s announcement of a tentative deal between owners and the players’ association, marking a likely end to the 113-day lockout.
“Relief, I guess. A lot of excitement,” said Oilers goalie and NHLPA representative Devan Dubnyk.
“Missing half the season is never really worth it … we’re happy with what we ended up with.”
Oilers president Patrick LaForge said the team was not part of the ownership directly involved in the negotiations, and does not yet know the precise details of the deal.
He said they are expecting to get more information soon.
The team is preparing to hold its training camp, which could come as early as Wednesday if the two sides vote to ratify the 10-year collective bargaining agreement.
General manager Steve Tambellini thinks the team is in a stronger position than some, because many of its younger players have spent the lockout on the ice, playing for other leagues.
“I think there is the advantage for any player who has been playing in any league,” he said.
He says the shortened season may be a benefit to the Oilers, but says it is to soon to see what type of effect it might overall.
Laforge said the Oilers have kept a good relationship with their fans over the course of the lockout.
“I wish none of them had to go through it and watch it. I think the good thing is that we’re out the other side.”
He said the time away from the game hasn’t changed the team’s business model. He wouldn’t say how many season ticket holders the team lost , but that he “would not say it was an abnormal amount.”
He said there are no firm plans to offer special incentives to fans to come back to the team, but it is something worth considering.
“If we thought we could just wave a wand over it …. and all the memories of the lockout are gone away, I think that would be just silly on our part.”
Laforge said the organization has not had to lay off any of its employees, most of who have found temporary work with other organizations.
He said there is a chance they will still lose some staff who will decide not to come back to the team, as happened during the last lockout.