Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he is "elated" that the National Hockey League's player's union has agreed to a long-term deal with league owners, guaranteeing the struggling league will hit the ice in 2013.
"It's a terrific long-term deal that will bring stability to the league for the next decade," Pawlenty said. "The league can now concentrate on bringing more fans to the tent instead of worrying about their contracts."
Pawlenty, an avid hockey fan and Minnesota Wild season ticket holder, will be rink-side when the Wild faceoff against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
"I'll be there with a cold beer in my hand; doesn't matter what kind as long as it's cold," he said.
The Wild have had a prolific offseason, acquiring All Stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Pawlenty is expecting big things from the reinvigorated squad.
"We have a Stanley Cup-level team, line for line it's as good a team as you'll find in the NHL," he said.
Pawlenty, who will split his time between Minnesota and Washington D.C. as head of the bank lobbying group Financial Services Roundtable, refrained from trash-talking the Washington Capitals.
"I haven't had a chance to see D.C. hockey fever, but I look forward to being a part of that," he said, adding that he "likes [the Wild's] odds" against Alexander Ovechkin's Capitals.
The 2012 lockout was the NHL's second major strike in the past 10 years. The league was forced to cancel the 2004-2005 season after the player's union failed to agree to a long-term deal. Pawlenty said the strike is a metaphor for the struggling United States economy.
"Markets, whether they are tickets, stocks, or homes, survive on certainty," he said. "Fans certainly appreciate the certainty that this deal brings them."