Hockey fans rejoice as puck drops on NHL action after lengthy lockout
Montreal Canadiens' fan Will Thrall, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs' fan Jonny Wright cheer on their teams outside the Bell Centre in Montreal Saturday, January 19, 2013 ahead of the Canadiens' NHL home opener against the Leafs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.
By Benjamin Shingler, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, January 19, 2013 9:06PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, January 19, 2013 10:27PM EST
MONTREAL--Hockey fans were celebrating the return of NHL action on Saturday, with many saying they were ready to forget the lengthy lockout that nearly cost the season.
Before the opening night game in Montreal, many Canadiens and Maple Leafs fans appeared far too excited about the matchup to harbour any more anger over the work stoppage.
"I've played hockey my whole life and I can't live without it," said Myles Resnick, an 18-year-old Leafs fan who made the trip from Toronto with friends.
Resnick said he was angry during the lockout but loved hockey too much to stay away.
"As soon as it was over I jumped right back on."
The frenzy around Montreal's Bell Centre began early in the day.
Despite steady snowfall, thousands turned out to see the Canadiens and Leafs during their game-day skates, which were made open to fans as part of an attempt to make amends.
Later on, the rock band Simple Plan played a free concert outside the arena, while a nearby boutique offering 50 per cent off Habs merchandise attracted a crowd three people thick.
Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, fans welcomed their home team back for a second season.
The Jets played the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon in front a sellout crowd, with the Senators winning 4-1.
The team reached out to fans by offering half price food and drinks. Draft beers were $4.25 instead of $8.50, and $8 hot dogs were $4.
Kasia Dolna, who was wearing a Daniel Alfredsson Senators jersey in a sea of Jets gear, said she appreciated the gesture and had no misgivings about supporting the league.
"Not at all," Dolna said as she headed into the arena. "I'm a huge hockey fan. (The lockout) sucked... but I can't wait for the game."
Another fan, Billy Kent, whose family has season tickets, said he wasn't about to stop being a hockey fan -- especially with the Jets back in town.
"It's a little frustrating," he said.
"I don't even know what side to side really with, I guess. But it's back now, and it's over with."
There were some signs of discontent, however.
A scattering of boos greeted Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey during the pre-game introductions. Hainsey was the team's representative during the labour negotiations with the league and was often front and centre during talks with the owners.
All seven Canadian teams were scheduled to play over the weekend.
The Anaheim Ducks were matched up against the Canucks on Saturday in Vancouver.
On Sunday, the Calgary Flames host the San Jose Sharks, while the Canucks play against the Edmonton Oilers.
--with files from Avi Saper and Judy Owen in Winnipeg.