FRISCO, Texas — Like their colleagues from around the National Hockey League, members of the Dallas Stars are starting to trickle into team headquarters and hitting the ice with their teammates in the hope that the 2012-13 NHL season will begin on time in October. Just for the record, Dallas is set to open Oct. 13 at Phoenix.
Of course, there is one major question mark hovering over the coming NHL season — the possibility of a lockout in 10 days. No matter whether they’re fans or members of the media, those who follow the frozen game closely are well aware that the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league expires Sept. 15, and the owners have been threatening the dreaded “L” word as in lockout if they don’t get what they want.
Now, a lot can happen in the next 10 days as the two sides are scheduled to meet again in New York next week, but at least for the time being, the Stars players who have already begun skating at the club’s HQ in Frisco are taking a business-as-usual approach to the situation.
“Obviously it feels good to get back out [on the ice with the guys],” defenseman Trevor Daley said. “There’s a little bit of a gray cloud over us right now not knowing what’s going on, but we’ve got to get ready for the 20th and expect whatever happens on the 16th or the 20th when we’re supposed to start. We’ve just got to stay at her and keep positive.”
Like his fellow blueliner this isn’t the first possible lockout for veteran Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas, who says if the lockout drags out for an extended period of time that he would definitely look into playing in Europe. But the most seasoned member of the Dallas rearguard would still like to see the whole situation not go to such an extreme measure.
“I had a deal with Chicago (before the last lockout), but they didn’t qualify me after the lockout. That’s what I love doing. I want to play hockey,” Robidas said. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why we are skating. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Not one player has been talking about the lockout. The players didn’t come up with that. We’re willing to no matter what, play with the old system until it gets resolved. That’s their leverage. They can basically do whatever they want.”
At 22, Philip Larsen, who figures to be entering his first full season in the NHL after a promising 2011-12 campaign, admits that the sheer possibility of a lockout is something he doesn’t want to consider.
“Of course, it’s a weird feeling to know the season might not start. It’s something you don’t really want to think about, but it’s always in the back of your head a little bit, at least it’s in my head. It’s tough,” Larsen said. “Everybody wants it to start when it’s supposed to. We’re just hoping it’s going to get fixed so we can start playing. At the same time, it’s a tough situatio, and it’s never fun. It’s not fun to think about we might not start playing, but right now the only thing you can do is get back and prepare for the season to start, prepare like you always do. If it starts, it starts, and we’ll be ready to play. There’s a big question of what’s going to happen, but I’m here and ready to prepare for a season, and hopefully, it starts. You never know, but you always hope.”
Last season, center Vernon Fiddler was an anchor in the Dallas lineup, centering the third line, and he was also one of just three Stars regulars not to miss an entire game last season. He, too, has been through a lockout situation before and he’d care not to see another one. But the Edmonton native cites an entirely different reason for wanting the season start on time.
“Well, we have an obligation to be ready for the 21st of September. Whether that happens or not, certainly anything can happen. Us as players, we feel that the fans deserve hockey this year, and we certainly hope that we can reach an agreement because the fans are a big part of this negotiation as well because without them this league wouldn’t be anything,” Fiddler said. “We’re trying. I know Don [Fehr] and the committees are all working on it. It’s just a matter of finding a happy medium for everybody and everybody getting along. Hopefully, one day we can have a great partnership with the NHL.”
The gritty, hard-working center isn’t the only member of the Dallas roster who has been through a lockout situation before. Several other Stars remember the last lockout well but admit that the vibe surrounding this possible work stoppage is much different than it was nearly eight years ago.
“I think a few years ago, you knew that we weren’t going to start so it was a little different. This year, you’re a little optimistic about things. It’s a little bit more promising, at least from what I see,” Daley said. “For our sakes, we’ve got to go on like we start the 20th, and we’ve got to act like we’re going to start the 20th. The guys that are a little bit older have to put their kids back in school, so most of them are here for that reason. Some of the young guys have come in to get ready so it’s go on every day until the 16th. I think on the 16th, they’re going to kick us out of here so we’re going to end up going somewhere else but stay positive and stay at her, stay with it.”