The news Devils forward David Clarkson was anxiously awaiting arrived first via text message then through the television.
The 113-day lockout, the third in the NHL’s labor history, was over.
“It’s exciting when you’re told you can go back to work,” Clarkson told Metro in a phone conversation yesterday afternoon from his home in Toronto. The Devils right wing was preparing to get his “house ready” and “start packing” for training camp.
Clarkson acknowledged the work performed by NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr and the union negotiators in getting the deal done. Throughout the course of the talks, which date all the way back to last July, Fehr and the players routinely espoused that signing a deal that was equitable for both sides.
“We’re a strong union,” Clarkson said. “From Don to [the executive committee and negotiating committee], everyone did an amazing job. Don is a … stand-up guy. He’s done an amazing job. As players, we voted on everything that happened. It was an outstanding job. They did an outstanding job.”
While justifiably excited about the prospects of being able to ply his trade in the pre-eminent hockey league in the world, Clarkson was pleased that team employees and arena employees would once again be able to do their jobs.
“[A] lot of people were affected by this whole thing,” Clarkson said. “[It’s] not just sports. This stuff always happens. Right now this situation [is happening with Toronto schoolteachers on strike].
“When situations [like the labor battles arrive, it] sucks. We’re all fortunate to be involved in a game we love.”
Clarkson, who emerged as one of the most vital elements to the 2011-12 Eastern Conference championship-winning Devils squad by scoring a career-high 30 goals in 80 games, believes fan anger over the lockout will subside and fans will return. He is especially eager to skate on the Prudential Center ice in front of a packed house as soon as possible.
“You saw how loud they got [during the run to the Stanley Cup final],” Clarkson said of Devils’ fans. “[I] believe we’ll see the fans back. We’ll be back on the ice soon.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.