There were only three of them on the ice at Raleigh Center Ice in Raleigh N.C. Monday, but Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, goaltender Cam Ward, and forward Anthony Stewart were sweating it out and putting in an intense on-ice workout to end the year.
Meanwhile, in New York City, as New Year’s Eve revelers were preparing to ring in 2013, representatives from both the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) were meeting again, trying to hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
The NHL owners’ lockout of the players has dragged on for 107 days and counting.
Not feeling too good
It’s the longest and most nauseating roller coaster ride anyone could take and has offered many with the opportunity to lean over the side to expel all their inner feelings, emotions and anything else left in their stomachs.
It has not been a fun experience and one that many have lived through before, back in 2004-2005.
That spin on the rails ended abruptly and tossed everyone off as the wheels ground to a halt, canceling an entire season.
It seems that the cars have approached the highest peak again and the speed and intensity of negotiations are picking up, and no one wants to catch air again on this one.
As small a group as they had on the ice, all three Hurricanes players entered the lobby at RCI with beads of sweat still streaming down their faces afterwards.
Stewart, still with his equipment on, camped out in front of the water fountain for at least five minutes, getting as much water back into his body as he could.
He looked no different than a tireless youth player who didn’t want to leave the rink after practice, before going to the dressing room to get changed.
It was New Year’s Eve, but he took the time to work out and is ready to play, whenever that may be.
“Definitely ready,” Stewart said.
“I went and played 20 games out in Great Britain to stay in game shape, and I’ll definitely be ready for sure.”
Obviously, maintaining a weekly regimen of on-ice workouts, skating at least three times a week in Raleigh, Staal has maintained his skating legs in hopes of getting a new season started.
However, he is realistic that a higher tempo of preparation would be needed before starting what would be a shorter and very intense regular season, possibly ranging anywhere from 48-52 games.
"Right now, I would need a week of NHL-tempo practices,” Staal said.
“Game-like speed is a little different. Obviously, the first few games would be a little rusty, but it wouldn't take long, I don’t think, to get back into it.”
Ready or not – let’s go
The Hurricanes leader would also expect others on his team to be ready, but being a realist, he knows that some of them may have a lot more work to do, and would have to deal with the consequences accordingly.
“You have to prepare yourself,” he said.
“If we start, they’re not going to care if you’re in terrible shape or in good shape. You’re gonna’ have to perform and if you don’t, you’re not gonna’ play. That’s the business of the NHL, the business of professional sports. At this point, you have to be ready to go and you gotta’ hope that where the guys are or certain guys are that they are in the right shape to be able to perform.”
He concluded his statement by adding, “if we get to that point, which we all hope we do.”
Getting down to business
Interesting point that Staal makes about what he perceives the ‘business’ of the NHL to be.
In his mind, the players competing is what it is all about.
The NHL’s lockout has kept its players from conducting their business on the ice and the league from doing its share off of it.
As NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and their collection of lawyers continue to meet in board rooms, thinking that they are conducting the league’s business, Staal brings back into focus where the true business of the NHL takes place – on the frozen sheet in the rink.
And he's right.
How ready is he to start it back up?
“Let’s just go. I just wanna’ play”
The captain has spoken.
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