After months of lockout madness, the NHL is returning.
The Scottrade Center organ is being tuned and the ear-splitting horn that sounds after goals will end its silence. The Blues will emerge, the puck will be dropped and the sound of skates slicing through ice will fill the air again.
After the lawyers and executives and labor bosses dot the I's and cross the T's of a collective bargaining agreement this week, the guys with the skates will embark on a shortened season that promises plenty of drama and intrigue.
I have been asked a lot in the last few days about the level of damage caused by this latest example of the NHL turning weapons upon itself. My answer: Plenty. But as pro sports fans have shown in the past, they tend to have short memories about lockouts when their team starts to win again.
Fans deserve more than a polite apology, some ticket specials and an extra giveaway or two. What they need are assurances from the league and its players that labor strife is a thing of the past and will never happen again.
"We're playing hockey, it doesn't really matter what the deal is," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "Both sides had to give something and in the end, it's for the lawyers to look over. We're not going to talk about the CBA any more, it's going to be about hockey.
"We've got a lot of damage control to do. We've got to focus on putting a good product on the ice and to build the game back to where it was."
If fans want to show their protest by not buying tickets, it is completely understandable.
For every person that has said he will never set foot in an NHL arena again, there is another preparing to get blown away by what figures to be a wild regular season and wide-open playoff race.
When the season begins Jan. 19 in fast-forward mode, no one is quite sure what lies ahead. My guess is a team like the Blues -- which features plenty of young legs, lots of experience, solid goaltending and defense -- could be positioned to take a major step forward.
Some NHL players have been skating away on pro teams in Europe or in the minors, while others have been practicing on their own. Veterans are another year older, goalies haven't seen much in the way of live pucks fired their way since last spring and the quality of play figures to take a hit during the initial few weeks after an extremely short training camp.
Among the positives for the Blues are a mostly stable roster with little turnover, good veteran leadership and a veteran coach in Ken Hitchcock, who has steered teams through turbulent lockout waters before.
The players know and understand Hitchcock's system and about the only newcomer with a large learning curve is one of the best hockey prospects on the planet -- winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
Why the importance of young legs?
This is going to be a crazy schedule full of three and four games in a week, back-to-back games and little rest time. This will be a sprint, not a marathon, and there is little room for error.
As a result, more injuries are expected because of the wear and tear. However, younger teams would figure to be ready and able to withstand the grind a little better than veteran squads making a final push for playoff greatness.
Some Blues fans are mad and I don't blame them. They were robbed of more than 40 percent of the season, taken away from their beloved Saturday night games against the Red Wings and Blackhawks.
Will the fans return?
The die-hards will be back, but others will play hard to get and some won't show their faces at all.
Winning the fans back is not going to be easy. Also troublesome will be smoothing over relations with corporate partners and sponsors who were willing to spend their money before the lockout and now might think twice about it.
Hockey has created another mess, the third lockout during the tenure of never-popular NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Although Bettman's job is basically to do what the owners tell him to do, hockey fans would likely celebrate his departure.
Everyone in the sport has grown tired of hearing about revenue splits, profit sharing and percentages and owners vs. players.
It's time to play hockey again.