Hints of a Tampa Bay Lightning season in the shadow of a potential lockout

Matthieu Garon was among players spotted practicing at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon the past week. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

It's the little things here and there, popping up left and right. You may dismiss them because you focus is on the 800 pound gorilla in the room. That ugly malaise that Gary and Don are in the middle of ironing out.

This weekend, Labor Day weekend, is the unofficial end of summer. And yet, hints of the fall have been skating around for the past two weeks or longer at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. It's business-as-usual for Tampa Bay Lightning players and a select group of other NHL'ers who live in the area; they prepare for the season ahead, fully aware the threat of a work stoppage is looming.

Player practices are not officially sanctioned or scheduled by the team, run by the team, or anything officially tied to the Lightning. It's ice time secure through the players own financial investment in ice time. So I can't tell you when the guys are around, or if things are open to the public...

Martin St. Louis, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Mathieu Garon, and Eric Brewer are just some of the players that have been spotted. And that number of players will grow up until business-as-usual (tentatively) ceases on September 15th and the end of the current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the Players Association.

The promise of an upcoming season is dampened by that labor stuff, though. So, news that Lightning preseason game tickets went on sale last Friday was easy to miss. It's another sign that business for the league continues as usual until it doesn't.

But the shimmer of an upcoming season doesn't stop there. The first TV schedule announcement from the Bolts was released today,. The club (tentatively) have 10 national broadcasts scheduled in America this (tentative) upcoming season, and another 10 games carried on Canadian broadcast channels.

The press release containing the national TV schedule is below the jump. How optimistic or pessimistic that the schedule holds to this is up to you.

LIGHTNING ANNOUNCE 2012-13 NATIONAL BROADCAST SCHEDULE

TAMPA BAY - The National Hockey League announced today that the Tampa Bay Lightning will play 20 regular season games on national television during 2012-13, including 10 that will be broadcast live in the United States. Seven games will appear on both the NBC Sports Group and TSN, five on the CBC, four on RDS and three on both the NHL Network and TSN2.

NBC and NBC Sports Network enter the second season of the 10-year agreement with the NHL, the largest media rights deal in League history. It also is the eighth consecutive season both networks have served as a national television partner of the NHL in the U.S. The Lightning will play their first of 10 games on the network on Wednesday, November 21 at the Carolina Hurricanes (7:30 p.m.).

NHL Network-U.S. will televise 78 live games for its American audience this season, focusing on Thursday nights and Saturdays, including 14 doubleheaders and three tripleheaders. The Lightning will play three times on the NHL Network with their first appearance on Friday, January 11 versus the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m.). In all three occasions the Lightning play games on the NHL Network, they will be hosting their opponent at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

CBC's Hockey Night in Canada returns for its 60th season as it becomes one of the longest running and most iconic programs in Canadian television history. The 60th anniversary season is highlighted by 101 regular-season games, including five involving the Lightning with their first action on the network on Thursday, November 1 against the Winnipeg Jets.

TSN platforms will broadcast 237 NHL regular-season games during the 2012-13 season, including 10 Lightning games. Seven will air on TSN, while three will broadcast on TSN2. The Lightning's puck-drop time on January 15 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs has been changed to 7:00 p.m. to meet television requirements.

RDS will once again have French-language coverage across Canada of all 82 regular-season Montreal Canadiens games, including four meetings versus Tampa Bay.

Below is the schedule of games for the Lightning's 2012-13 nationally broadcast games:

Date Time Opponent Network

Thursday, November 1 7:00 p.m. vs. Winnipeg Jets CBC

Saturday, November 10 7:00 p.m. vs. Ottawa Senators CBC

Wednesday, November 21 7:30 p.m. at Carolina Hurricanes NBC Sports Group and TSN2

Tuesday, November 27 7:30 p.m. at Montreal Canadiens TSN and RDS

Saturday, December 1 3:00 p.m. at Winnipeg Jets CBC

Thursday, December 27 7:30 p.m. vs. Montreal Canadiens RDS

Tuesday, January 8 7:30 p.m. at Pittsburgh Penguins NBC Sports Group and TSN

Friday, January 11 7:30 p.m. vs. Washington Capitals NHL Network

Tuesday, January 15 7:00 p.m. vs. Toronto Maple Leafs TSN

Tuesday, January 22 7:30 p.m. at Montreal Canadiens RDS

Thursday, February 14 7:30 p.m. vs. San Jose Sharks NBC Sports Group and TSN

Thursday, February 21 7:30 p.m. vs. Boston Bruins NHL Network

Sunday, February 24 7:30 p.m. at Pittsburgh Penguins NBC Sports Group and TSN2

Tuesday, February 26 7:30 p.m. vs. Buffalo Sabres NBC Sports Group and TSN

Thursday, February 28 7:30 p.m. vs. Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Network

Tuesday, March 5 7:30 p.m. at New Jersey Devils NBC Sports Group and TSN2

Saturday, March 9 7:00 p.m. vs. Montreal Canadiens RDS and CBC

Wednesday, March 20 7:30 p.m. at Toronto Maple Leafs TSN

Saturday, March 23 7:00 p.m. at Ottawa Senators CBC

Tuesday, March 26 7:30 p.m. vs. Buffalo Sabres NBC Sports Group and TSN

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