Finally, it's time to play.

It's been 257 days since the Nashville Predators were eliminated from the NHL playoffs in Phoenix back on May 7. A lot has occurred since that 2-1 defeat: The Predators lost one of their best players to free agency, re-signed their all-star defenseman to one of the richest contracts in the sport's history, endured a 113-day lockout, prepared for the new season with a whirlwind six-day training camp and now must play 48 games in 99 days.

Despite all of the off-ice turbulence, tonight's opener at Bridgestone Arena sold out in three days. Members of the Predators front office say they understand their sport must work overtime to win back fan support.

"We have a lot of work to do," Predators Chief Operating Officer Sean Henry said. He said the team's goal is to sell out each of the scheduled 24 home dates in the shortened 48-game season. The lockout lopped 17 home games off the usual 82-game season.

The owners locked the players out on Sept. 15 chiefly because the owners wanted to reduce the percentage of revenues that went to the players. Several times during the work stoppage it appeared the sport would shut down for the season, as it did in the 1994-95 season. An agreement was finally reached on Jan. 6; the players ratified the agreement a week ago.

The work stoppage was too much for some fans. Season ticket holder Mark Hollingsworth, known as the "The Warden" of Cell Block 303 — the lead fan section in the arena — announced through the organization's Facebook page Thursday that he did not renew his season tickets.