Thomas Vanek said players could’ve had the same deal months ago. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres relieved lockout finally over

AMHERST – For the nine Buffalo Sabres skating inside the Northtown Center this morning, a sense of excitement and relief accompanied their energetic practice, one of the last skates before training camp convenes later this week or early next one.

With a tentative collective bargaining agreement reached early Sunday morning, players are trying to forget about the 113-day NHL lockout and begin prepping for the 2012-13 season.

A swarm of media greeted the players today. Here are some quick highlights:

Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold, the team’s union representative

On if he’s relieved:

“I think if you look at our skate today, yeah, I think guys are a little bit more energetic. It’s been an interesting, what, four months now?”

On if the new CBA was worth it:

“I think as a negotiation goes through, you never know where it’s going to start, where it’s going to end and how the ebb and flow of the whole thing goes. It was interesting to say the least. There’s a couple things we were really keen on getting for ourselves. It ended up working out in the end. We’re excited to go back to work. We’re excited to see the fans again.”

Sabres winger Thomas Vanek

On if the new CBA was worth it:

“No, it wasn’t worth it. We could’ve settled with the same deal months ago. But was it necessary? Yeah, because they weren’t willing to negotiate again. That’s the sad part about it, at least from my standpoint on. Maybe I’m biased because I’m obviously on the players’ side. But I thought we were willing to negotiate fair. You look way back at that first offer, 43 percent (of revenue, down from 57), it’s like, where do we start? That’s where it all started going south early.”

On the mistrust between the players and the league:

“At the end of the day, the players love the game, and you hope there’s enough owners that love it, too. I’m sure they do. And you have eight to 10 years to work on it. You start with small steps. It’s an industry. They need us. We need them. We got to find a common ground.”

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