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As practice reached its end, a long line of fans stood in an aisle in the Garden’s lower bowl, patiently waiting for team president Cam Neely to pose for pictures and sign autographs. When Chara grabbed a microphone and thanked everyone for coming, and especially for enduring through the lockout, the crowd hooted and hollered. Teenage girls screamed for a staged TV shoot, as if Bergeron had just canned the Cup clincher. A guy in a P.J. Stock No. 42 sweater sat near center ice, scrutinizing line combinations and defensive pairings with fixed glare.
The long wait is over, a new season, albeit downsized, is about to begin. First the Rangers, then the Jets (Monday matinee), and who knows what come May and June. Most of the faces remain the same, the goal the same as ever. Game on. We’ll find out soon if it was worth the wait.