Wednesday the National Hockey League and the players’ association reached “an agreement in principle” on a deal that would bring back hockey.

Yeah, well, maybe. Over the course of the record-setting 301 day lockout during which pro-hockey lost an entire season, the bozos associated with this process have been on the brink of an agreement any number of times.

But let’s assume this “agreement in principle” leads to an actual collective bargaining agreement that’s ratified by the players and the league’s board of governors over the next little while. The NHL is back. Heck of a July story, eh?

Details leaked by either or both sides suggest that the owners got a good deal of what they sought when they pulled their raggedy product from the shelves last year. The league will have a salary cap and revenue sharing arrangements. Until greedy, rogue owners working through clever general managers can figure out how to subvert the arrangements and wriggle through the gaps in the small print, the players’ salaries will be artificially stunted. they will also be tied to hockey’s revenues, meaning that if the business is badly managed, the workers will take the hit. (Theoretically, if hockey is managed well enough to become profitable, the players will benefit, but it’s impossible to imagine teams acknowledging that they’ve generated new revenues the players are entitled to share. that’s what accountants are for.)

In Boston, Toronto and New York, there are probably Bruins fans and Maple Leafs fans and Ranger’s fans excited by the prospect of the National Hockey League’s return in the fall. But purveyors of NHL replica jerseys shouldn’t expect a run on the merchandise just yet. For one thing, it’s July. Probably too hot to wear that stuff, even in Toronto. For the other, there’s that “agreement in principle” thing. there’s still some ratification that has to take place. Based on the way both sides in the three hundred one day lockout have been shooting themselves in the feet, either the owners or the players could still muck it up.

If they don’t, and if the National Hockey League players report to camp in September and begin playing games again in October, all the two sides will have to do is convince fans to unlearn what the NHL has so patiently taught them: namely, that they can live without hockey.