Flames players optimistic but will wait for official news of lockout end
With NHL talks progressing, Comeau and Jones just keeping hopes up and staying in shape
Earnest negotiating sessions — finally — between the National Hockey League and its players have the hockey world abuzz. There’s enough traction that some folks are guessing at training-camp dates, taking stabs at regular-season openings.
Blake Comeau and Blair Jones, however, would rather await official word.
When a new collective bargaining agreement is hammered out, let them know.
Till then, they’ll keep on keeping on.
“I’ve had my hopes up a few times, so I’m just waiting to see what the final result will be this time around,” Jones, in Calgary, said Wednesday afternoon — Day 81 of the NHL lockout. “It’s hard to judge from outside the negotiating room. I hear what everyone says, but I try not to get too high or too low.
“There’s still work to be done. When — and if — it happens, I’ll be ready. For now, though, I’m not going to rush to any conclusions. It’s, ‘Give me the news when it’s ready to go.’ ”:
Added Comeau: “It’s been like a roller-coaster ride. I’m a little reserved, but, obviously, I have more optimism right now than I’ve had throughout this whole process. I’m not sure something will be done in the next 24 hours, but, hopefully, something is done sooner rather than later.”
Not that Jones and Comeau are oblivious to the latest developments.
Conference calls, news snippets, union apps, social media, and old-fashioned hearsay keep them in the loop. So no one can deny the signs of actual bargaining.
“For the first time, both sides are saying that things are moving in the right direction,” Comeau said from Kelowna, where, on a daily basis, he skates with a crew that includes Brent Seabrook, Jordin Tootoo, Wade Redden, Keaton Ellerby, Luke Schenn. “There’s definitely some excitement and more optimism from myself than there has been throughout this whole process. When you hear (NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) say he’s happy the way things are going, when (NHLPA special counsel) Steve Fehr is saying that he thought it was one of the best days they’ve had so far . . . obviously comments like that are going to create some optimism, some excitement.
“At the same time, I’ve been excited quite a few times throughout this process.”
But should someone in the know suddenly inform players that training camps are a week away, no one would need to ask for a prep-time extension.
“I feel physically that I’m ready to go,” said Comeau. “I’ve been skating with the (Kelowna Rockets) junior team, I’ve been skating with other NHL guys. And mentally? If an agreement was made, everyone would just be so excited and ready to go. So that wouldn’t be a problem at all. Everyone wants to get playing right away.
“Personally, I hope something gets done right away, and the NHL starts up and gets back on the ice where it belongs.”
Because, yes, Sept. 16, the first day of the lockout, feels like ages ago.
“For everyone involved — owners, players, fans, media — it’s been a long process,” said Comeau. “I think both sides realize that it’s gone on long enough. It’s been frustrating, that’s for sure.”
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