After months of NHL lockout-imposed skating on their own at Franklin’s A-Game Sportsplex, the small group of Nashville Predators players who have remained in town over the last few months moved back to their more familiar practice facility at Centennial Sportsplex Monday morning. One day after the league and the NHL Players’ Association announced that they had reached an agreement in principle to end the nearly four-month long lockout, the players took to the ice with a slightly different look than they had been sporting since mid- September.
Gone were the jerseys that bared the NHLPA logo and #theplayers hashtag, as they were replaced by the more familiar blue and white jerseys normally worn when the Predators practice.
“It is a little heavier with this thing on the front, actually,” a laughing Weber said of the sewn on Predator logo adorning the front of his jersey. “It is good to be back here and to see all the trainers and everybody that we haven’t seen for a long time. It is going to be a fun week and obviously the rest of the season.”
Weber also mentioned that his lockout beard may remain despite said lockout being all but over; joking that he hopes his playoff beard gets to be as long.
Several fans took in the workout from Centennial’s bleachers, and a large media contingency not usually seen at an early January Nashville practice waited for the players as they exited the ice.
“We didn’t have everyone here, so it is not going to be perfect,” Weber said while noting that the skates the last two days have had a different “energy.”
Until a new collective bargaining agreement is formalized between the parties, the skates are still characterized as informal, but Monday’s session had a different feel than those held in Williamson County the last four months.
“We’ve been skating a lot all year,” center Mike Fisher said. “There is no excuse for not being in shape. We should all be ready to go. It will take a little bit of time, but we will be good.”
The league’s Board of Governors and the NHLPA are expected to separately approve the new agreement later this week. Following those approvals, announcements regarding the start of a much-abbreviated training camp and shortened schedule will be released.
Training camp is expected to start later this week, possibly Saturday. No preseason games are expected to be played before puck drops on the start of the regular season which has been widely reported as occurring January 19th.