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Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 9:08 p.m.
 

Hockey returns: The National Hockey League lost nearly four months of its season to a lockout. Millions of dollars in ancillary economic activity was lost in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. And surely some fans will continue to hold the NHL a grudge. But a new contract is expected to be ratified by players on Wednesday, a truncated season will bow, the Zambonis will be running again and all will be right with the world.

Hockey's failure: The supposed “major victory” for NHL players in the new contract is a wildly generous defined-benefits pension plan that will pay vested players, beginning at age 55, up to $250,000 annually. But that kind of liability might prove to be an albatross around the owners' necks. And players might find themselves to be too clever by half, considering a defined-contribution plan most assuredly would offer an even more generous retirement income.

Hockey's challenge: The lockout-shortened NHL season will turn a marathon into a sprint. “Fresh legs” should make for plenty of exciting play and some interesting coaching strategies. But the sprint could lead to more injuries (especially for those who might have slacked on their conditioning) and novel game management that, should it fail for even one game series, could leave precious time to recover. But surely the gods of hockey will prevail, right? And, oh, before we forget, “Hey!”

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