Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Russo's Rants: It's official: NHL players are locked out

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild off-season news Updated: September 15, 2012 - 10:59 PM

10, 9, 8, ... 3, 2, 1, and KABOOM!

It's official.

It was feared for weeks and became oh-so apparent the past several days when the NHL and the Players' Association got nowhere in negotiations, but it's now for real: NHL players have been locked out and a $3.3 billion business has closed shop and halted seven years of momentum and good will.

It occurred at 11:01 p.m. CT tonight. When it ends is anybody's guess because these two sides are in alternate universes, speaking different languages.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said earlier Saturday that the two sides will next meet when either side is willing to make a new proposal, say something new. But that actually hasn't happened yet.

Neither has made an official counter proposal stemming from the other's proposal. They've basically been tinkering with their original ones, negotiating off their own proposals.

Read the coverage in Sunday's paper, but just a few answers to questions I have received from Wild fans:

1. The Wild can have no contact with its players and Wild players are forbidden from team facilities except for Pierre-Marc Bouchard. He has not yet been cleared to play from last winter's season-ending concussion, meaning he has access to Wild doctors, treatment from trainers and the gym. If not cleared by Oct. 11, he is entitled to his $4.3 million 2012-13 salary.

2. Wild season-ticket holders will find out Monday what happens with their tickets. I've been led to believe they can either get refunds as games are cancelled OR keep their money in their accounts in return for interest, which I hear is the second-most generous rate in the NHL.

3. Wild employees have an all-company meeting Monday. Owner Craig Leipold will announce a transition plan, which I'll report Monday afternoon. But I have been told there will be no imminent layoffs. But a game-night staff of 500 arena workers sadly won't be getting paychecks and places like Eagle Street Grill and Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub will be less crowded on what would have been game nights.

4. Yes, whether there's a season or not this year, every player will lose a year on his contract. Bouchard, Niklas Backstrom, Matt Cullen and Stephane Veilleux are in the last year of their deals and could become free agents next summer. Cal Clutterbuck, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon and Justin Falk are the NHL guys in the last year of their deals that could become restricted free agents.

5. If the season is lost, I've gotten a lot of questions about the draft order. That obviously will be announced at a later date. In 2005, there was a lottery and if I remember, teams got assigned balls based on playoff appearances and recent first-round picks. Pittsburgh won the Sidney Crosby lottery. The Wild got No. 4, lucking into, ahem, Benoit Pouliot.

6. If games are cancelled but the lockout ends with enough time to have a shortened season, yes, the schedule would be altered. In 2005, the season wasn't actually cancelled until Feb. 16, if I remember correctly. In 1995, there was a 48-game, all-conference schedule, if I remember correctly.

7. Players don't miss paychecks until Oct. 15, but they also get 8 percent of last season's salary back then, too.

8. I noted last week how teams must cease player promotion. For instance, "Becoming Wild" will take a hiatus and Twitter contests asking the names of Kyle Brodziak's dogs will end. But teams are still allowed to sell jerseys and don't need to remove "most" content from their web sites.

9. The way it usually works in lockouts: You cancel two weeks out. So beginning in a matter of days, preseason games will start to be wiped off the slate.

10. Have any more questions? Read Sunday's paper AND please join me for a live lockout chat on startribune.com Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Fun stuff, eh?

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