Kings players practice amid NHL lockout
No negotiations took place between the NHL and the players association on Monday, and no new talks toward ending their labor dispute were scheduled -- but a group of NHL players maintained their routine of skating a few times a week at the Kings' practice facility in El Segundo.
They rented the ice on their own and, because they’re not allowed to use NHL facilities during a lockout, they used one of the small locker rooms usually occupied by kids' teams.
The group was made up mostly of Kings: Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford, Matt Greene, Brad Richardson, Rob Scuderi, Trevor Lewis, Jarret Stoll, Jeff Carter and Colin Fraser.
Two members of the Buffalo Sabres -- goaltender Ryan Miller, who lives in California during the off-season, and forward Ville Leino -- also scrimmaged, as did former Kings and Ducks enforcer George Parros. The teams, wearing NHLPA shirts, played a 4-4 tie -- or so Scuderi claimed after a disputed goal that triggered a lively and laughing argument.
Brown said he's following the negotiations but that he’s bored by the lack of games and has become a chauffeur for his kids as they go to swim class and other activities. He said the players try to skate three times a week "more or less," and that they’re trying to stay positive about resolving the impasse and saving the season.
"I think all players have hope. Everyone involved has hope," he said. "I'm optimistic. That's just how I am."
Parros, a member of the NHL Players' Assn. negotiating committee and executive board, participated in several bargaining sessions. He said the union is hoping for more negotiations to "try and break some ground somewhere, but as it stands right now, I don't think we’re seeing eye to eye."
Parros, who signed with Florida as a free agent in July, said although players are scattered across North America and Europe, the union is "a pretty well-oiled machine now as far as communication goes" and that executive director Don Fehr has kept players well informed. Parros also said the union remains solid despite the distance separating members.
"I think we're as strong as ever," he said. "Just because guys have gone over to play in Europe, I don’t see that as weakness at all. Guys are doing what's best for their family and, if anything, if guys can stay fresh it's better to get on the ice and play and keep a good pace and work on your game over there. And if you can earn some money too, then all the better. I don't think it's a bad thing that guys have been going over to play in Europe."
He said he's eager to return to the ice. "I’d like to play, for sure," he said. "No one really wants this. But you've got to do what you've got to do to stay in shape, and I think at the drop of a hat we're ready to go back into it."
Stoll said he had an enjoyable off-season, which included a trip home to Saskatchewan with the Stanley Cup and a golf trip to Ireland. "It's a long enough summer now, though," he said.
The lockout, he said, "is a process you’ve got to go through to get what's fair and right. Yeah, it’s boring, but you’ve got to go through it and make sure we get the right deal."
He said this week could be pivotal in determining whether a full NHL schedule can be played or if the schedule will be shortened -- or possibly wiped out entirely. Commissioner Gary Bettman set Oct. 25 as the date a new collective bargaining agreement would have to be agreed upon and put on paper for a full season to be preserved with a Nov. 2 start.
"We’ll see where we're at after this week," Stoll said. "We heard a lot last week with the proposals going back and forth and their side taking 10 minutes to go through three of our proposals, which is pretty quick, I think. We're all looking forward to finding out what's going to happen and in the meantime, you just stay in shape and skate. You do what you've got to do in order to be ready to start the season. ... We're all here together, we’re all on the same page and informed about what's going on, and I think that’s the most important thing.”