The NHL and Blues hockey will be back for a shortened season. UPI/Bill Greenblatt files

The NHL and Blues hockey will be back for a shortened season. UPI/Bill Greenblatt files

With news that the NHL lockout has come to an end, as the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association reached agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, a small group of St. Louis Blues players took to the rink for an informal practice session Sunday afternoon at the team’s training facility just outside the city. Team captain David Backes, and forwards Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie spoke to Missourinet about the lockout and getting back on the ice for the fans.

AUDIO David Backes on fans coming back (1:00)

AUDIO Andy McDonald on ending the lockout (:45)

AUDIO T.J. Oshie happy to be back on the ice (1:00)

While hockey is often the butt of many jokes about having no fans or minimal interest, the fanbase is strong and loyal. While T.V. ratings might not suggest that fact, attendance figures from the NHL show fans support their hockey teams.

Last season, the Blues averaged over 18,000 fans for each home game last year, ninth in the NHL in total attendance. 26 of the 30 NHL teams average 85% or better capacity last season in their home arenas, with 21 of those teams at 96% capacity of better.

By comparison, the NBA’s total attendance (during it’s last non-lockout schedule of 2010-2011), showed just 18 of their 30 league teams with an average of 85% or better capacity and only 12 teams at 96% or better.

The agreement was announced by Commissioner Gary Bettman early Sunday morning, after a marathon 16-plus hour negotiating session that began Saturday afternoon. The sides announced an agreement in principle shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday. (NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr)

“We still have more work to do, but it is good to be at this point,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

The League did not announce the start date of the season or the number of games each team will play. Teams will play either 50-game schedules or 48-game schedules, depending on the date on which the season starts. Those details will be announced soon, Commissioner Bettman said.