Training camps around the NHL broke today and the long vacant arenas once again were bustling with drills and scrimmages.

In Pittsburgh, the Penguins — sans a jet-lagged Evgeni Malkin — returned to official practice in front of a packed-house Southpointe IcoPlex.

Their appreciation was shown through a practice-ending salute to the fans.

Said James Neal, “Pittsburgh is an unbelievable sports town, and they really love their Pens. It was great to see for us. We love it when the fans come out.”

They’ll continue to show support throughout the season, offering select concessions for free and 50 percent off apparel at their first four home games and select other promos during their first 15 home games.

At the NHL level, it would seem my pleas for an improved NHL Network have been answered — at least from the NHL Tonight perspective.

A new set, several new experts and analysts, and a more fluid format bring the nightly show closer to standards set by similar shows produced by other professional sports leagues.

There’s no word yet on what else (if anything) the NHL will do to thank fans for their support during the exhausting and embarrassing lockout, but rumors suggest NHL Game Center Live could be offered free for the entire season.

All in all, today is a great day for fans of the sport of hockey. In less than one week, training camps will conclude and the season will begin with an array of nationally televised games.

And, most importantly, in less than one week we’ll be able to focus on scores, stats, and standings, not negotiations, meetings, and conference calls.

Hockey is back, and it feels great!