EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Two Los Angeles Kings season-ticket holders were watching the Kings' final practice of the offseason Friday morning. They had waited a long time to watch the banner-raising ceremony scheduled for Saturday afternoon, only they weren't going to be able to make it. They had scheduled a cruise long before anyone dreamed the NHL season wouldn't start until Jan. 19.
Once the collective bargaining agreement was settled, it became clear that the season would start while they were on a boat.
"I was hoping one of the sides wouldn't ratify it," one of them joked.
But it might work out in the long run for these two fans, because the same lockout that bumped the start of the season to January eliminated one of the hurdles the Kings would have had to face with a normal start.
They're not dealing with the shortened summer that comes with a Stanley Cup win. There's no mental exhaustion that comes with being pulled in every direction. They've had more than enough time to recover physically, although Anze Kopitar and Willie Mitchell will miss the start of the season with injuries suffered during the lockout.
Despite that, this Kings team is in better shape to repeat than any in NHL's salary cap era.
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