So the NHL decided to lock itself out and wipe four months of games from its schedule. Yet with complete disaster averted, a season will be played, and it will be influenced by major moves and news that happened all the way back in the summer of 2012.
You know, back when it sounded like hockey might be played before Christmas.
Here then, are the major offseason updates you may have forgotten.
The Kings are Stanley Cup Champions.
That's right. California has its second Stanley Cup. Another "second six" franchise has finally put its name on the fabled chalice, leaving the St. Louis Blues as the only surviving 1967 expansion franchise yet to find glory.
The Kings are for sale. But not in a Marlins kind of way.
Like some kind of Marlins championship party, the champion Kings are now for sale. Except it's not the players for sale -- the Cup-winning roster returns almost completely intact -- but infamous billionaire recluse Philip Anschutz has put a "for sale" sign on Anschutz Entertainment Group, the subsidiary that owns the Kings, the Staples Center, the MLS champion LA Galaxy and other properties.
Jim Balsillie is not a prospective bidder at this time.
The Blues are no longer for sale. Finally.
It took nearly two years, but the St. Louis Blues finally found an ownership group and completed their sale. After many months trying to find anyone else, Dave Checketts -- who helped rescue them after the previous lockout -- finally had to accept selling to a local group led by his rival fellow minority partner Tom Stillman.
It was not without a parting gift however: Before exiting, Checketts gave his buddy John Davidson a lucrative contract extension, which the new ownership group preferred to buy out rather than pay full price to keep him on a top-heavy upper management team. Davidson promptly took a similar position with their Central Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets.
Martin Brodeur has not retired.
Somehow, the Atlantic Division's fourth-ranked New Jersey Devils are defending Eastern Conference champions. In the conference finals, they defeated the top-seeded New York Rangers. The media played the series as some kind of vengeance for 1994, even though the Devils have won three Stanley Cups since then.
Speaking of which…
The Minnesota Wild spent a billion dollars last summer.
Owner Craig Leipold would quickly claim some kind of buyer's remorse or bender hangover, but in July, he sounded happy as a clam to commit nearly $200 million in pre-lockout commitments to land Parise and his buddy, Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, through free agency.
Tons of players are gone ... possibly for good.
It happens every season, but lockouts tend to underline the effect: Old NHLers have drifted off. Jaroslav Spacek officially retired, while aging players like Mike Mottau, Brian Rolston and Mike Knuble will be hard-pressed to find contracts in the New NHL, Part II.
Goaltenders have moved.
Marc-Andre Fleury imploded in the Pittsburgh Penguins' playoff loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and even if team brass says they retain full confidence in him, their offseason actions say otherwise. You don't bring Tomas Vokoun in as a mere luxury backup; you bring him in because you don't want to be stuck with an elite roster undermined by poor goaltending.
In Vokoun's place, the Washington Capitals will finally let Michal Neuvirth and playoff surprise Braden Holtby fight it out for the starter's job. In the rest of the league's goaltending musical chairs, towering Anders Lindback was dealt from the Predators to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sergei Bobrovsky was dealt from the Flyers to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tim Thomas has gone on walkabout from the Boston Bruins and Roberto Luongo has -- oops, wait, Luongo and his onerous contract are still Vancouver Canucks property.
Forwards have moved, mostly to Raleigh.
All due respect to the Wild's massive splash, the Carolina Hurricanes made the biggest forward moves this summer by trading for Jordan Staal, captain Eric's brother, and signing maligned Washington Capitals free agent Alexander Semin. Their defense is still fairly anonymous -- though they have some promising youngsters -- but their top six up front is now much better.
The New York Rangers finally consummated the long-rumored Rick Nash trade, continuing their tradition of adding a highly paid forward each summer. Nash joins Brad Richards and Marion Gaborik before him. The Columbus Blue Jackets' return for Nash isn't sexy, but they found useful quality in Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and prospect Tim Erixon.
Meanwhile out West, the Dallas Stars made the most AARP-friendly splash by signing 40-something forwards Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. The Stars did let Anaheim have Sheldon Souray for three years and $11 million pre-lockout dollars.
This will be a fantastic rookie class.
They might suffer from a shortened season, or they might benefit from joining their NHL clubs after staying in shape with minor teams, but several rookies should make big impacts this season. They include Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz for the Oilers, Jonathan Huberdeau for the Panthers, Ryan Strome for the New York Islanders, Mikael Granlund for the Wild, Vladimir Tarasenko for the St. Louis Blues, Sven Baertschi for the Calgary Flames and playoff debutante Chris Kreider for the New York Rangers...
...but not Ryan Murray for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Because the Blue Jackets are the Blue Jackets and the hockey gods remain angry with them for unknown reasons. Murray suffered a serious, season-ending shoulder injury that ensures he won't dress for Columbus until at least 2013-14.
That's not all the non-lockout storylines that pervaded the pre-lockout summer, but it's a healthy share of the big ones. Maybe, just maybe, fans can enjoy watching it all play out and spend a few blissful months without hearing the words "Gary Bettman," "Donald Fehr" and "hockey-related revenue."