TROY, Mich. — The Red Wings who remain in the metro Detroit area appear to be in a holding pattern.
At the beginning of the month, the Wings who were skating at the Troy Sports Center said November would be a huge month in terms of labor negotiations.
Now that November is coming to an end with no resolution in sight, what will they do now?
Niklas Kronwall, one of several Wings who was in Troy Friday, said he hasn’t made a decision yet.
“Obviously I think it’s maybe time to start looking around a little bit and see what options are out there,” Kronwall said. “At the same time, obviously, try to stay focused as much as possible on what’s going on around here.”
Darren Helm, who has recovered from an inadvertent puck to the face from a Troy skate session several weeks ago, has made up his mind — at least for now — about what he plans to do.
“I think I kind of decided a couple days ago that I was just going to wait a little bit, wait ’til after Christmas,” Helm said. “Not a lot of previous opportunities for me to kind of be with my family or do different things like that, so I think I’m going to stick around, hang out around here for Christmas or go home.”
After two days of sessions with U.S. federal mediators resulted in no measurable progress, commissioner Gary Bettman suggested that the players and owners should hold their own meeting without anyone else. Meaning no Bettman, no deputy commissioner Bill Daly and no NHLPA executive director Don Fehr.
“Anything’s worth a shot, really,” Helm said. “Maybe it could be a good solution. I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to play out, but I think right now try anything and hopefully it’ll help.”
Kronwall said he would need to know more about what the terms would be for such a meeting before he offered an opinion.
“It’s one thing to say that, but it feels like things have been said in the past where OK, we’re willing to meet but under these conditions,” Kronwall said. “So without knowing the conditions, it’s hard to say too much about it.”
Helm was playing with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers during the 2004-05 lockout, so this has been a new experience for him, a rather unwelcome one.
“Awful. Just pretty boring,” Helm said. “I thought at the start of the summer that it was going to be kind of a long process, so I took a long time during the summer to let my wrist heal as long as I could. So the first few weeks, almost month and a half that I was here, I was still pretty optimistic and still had a lot of fire that the season was going to get going. Now it’s just kind of draining away and all we got now is a little bit of hope.”
Kronwall is generally an optimistic soul but even he seems to be a little less sunny than his usual self.
“Of course I never see it going this far,” Kronwall said. “But at the same time, we have to try to stay as positive as possible. If we don’t, it’s going to be really tough going out here those times a week that we go out here and skate. If you have the feeling that there’s not going to be anything, the skates are not going to be very good. So we just try to mentally, try to prepare ourselves and just kind of stay in shape and hope for the best.”
For now, Kronwall said the Wings are still planning on skating in Troy three times a week, staying in their holding pattern until something is resolved.
Helm adapting to Kevlar sleeves
Helm has some new equipment he needs to get used to wearing.
The 25-year-old forward returned to the Wings after missing almost a month with a knee injury in time for Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Nashville Predators April 12.
That return lasted just a few minutes.
Helm checked Predators forward Alexander Radulov, whose skate then cut Helm’s right forearm, lacerating tendons that required surgery, ending Helm’s season.
Like Mike Modano before him, Helm had to wear a contraption attached to his right hand and arm for several weeks.
During his recovery, Helm said when he played again, he intended to wear Kevlar sleeves to prevent another freak injury like that.
Helm has the sleeves, but hasn’t adapted to wearing them consistently yet.
“I need to start doing that,” Helm said after he skated with several Wings at the Troy Sports Center. “I just keep forgetting to kind of toss them on. You get into a routine as a player to do certain things, you’ve got certain equipment you wear, it’s just another piece I’ve got to add in there so I can get more comfortable. This is a perfect time for me to get used to it. I’m just kind of being lazy and forgetful about it.”
Although he suffered the injury to his right arm, Helm got Kevlar sleeves for both arms.
“Chances of getting one or the other, the odds are rare, pretty low to even have it happen, but it’s one thing I don’t want to go through again,” Helm said.
Helm said it wasn’t the feeling of wearing the sleeves that has prevented him from doing so.
“I’ve worn it a few times,” Helm said. “It’s not like it’s super uncomfortable but it’s one of those things where I haven’t really gotten into the routine of remembering to put it on. I keep forgetting.”
Helm will get a chance to wear them during a game when he plays in the NHLPA Charity Hockey game at the WFCU Centre in Windsor Dec. 8, barring a miracle resolution of the labor impasse before Dec. 6.