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Relief evident in St. Paul, as NHL hockey is set to return after long lockout

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman wasted no time Sunday lauding the announcement that the NHL owners and players expect to return to action after ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement.

Said Coleman:

"After months of discussions that seemed to go nowhere, the NHL players and NHL owners have finally come together to save what is left of the 2013 season.  Fundamentally, the end of the lockout means business owners in or near the Xcel Energy Center can get back to doing what they do best — supporting the fans of the Minnesota Wild.  We know this lockout has had a profound effect on business owners and workers in Saint Paul and our community is thrilled the players and the owners have reached an agreement. Let's play hockey."

The settlement was a whiff of good news for the mayor and the city, after last week's confirmation that Macy's was closing its downtown department store.

The hockey optimism is based on the assumption that Minnesotans will flock back to the Xcel Energy Center to watch the pro team after missing nearly half the season because of the extended and often bitter negotiations that alienated many fans and left some of the West Seventh area bars and restaurants complaining of lost business.

Some of the loudest complaints came from the Eagle Street Grille, just across Kellogg Avenue from the arena. Owners Joe Kasel and Kevin Geisen held press conferences begging the two sides to come to terms so that the season could go on and fans could eat there before and after games.

Yesterday the owners said in a statement:

"We are thrilled that the league and players have reached a tentative agreement.  We look forward to the deal being finalized, the schedule being announced and hockey back at the X. 

"We would like to express sincere gratitude to our loyal customers and dedicated staff for their support.  
 
"The lockout has had a dramatic impact on our business. We took the difficult, yet appropriate, measures to ensure our business's survival through this difficult time. Our staff and our customers are like family to us, we can't wait to have our hockey family back.

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