Local skating list grows longer as anticipation builds for end of NHL lockout
Stempniak among skaters down at WinSport as players work to get in top shape
Yes, Lee Stempniak did jump in his car and pound out the 50 hours from Boston to Calgary, arriving here on New Year’s Eve.
But, no, the trip was not in anticipation of a timely resolution to the National Hockey League’s lockout.
“I was always planning to come out — hopefully, it was sooner,” Stempniak, right-winger of the Calgary Flames, said Thursday morning. “But I’m optimistic that we can get a deal done and we can start playing. I’d like to be ready to go when that starts.
“I think I’ve been cautiously optimistic all along. The framework for a deal is there on both sides. It takes two sides to negotiate and work out a fair deal. Hopefully that day’s coming when we can get on the ice again.”
On Day 110 of the ongoing labour dispute, a couple of dozen pros, many of whom are Flames, skated at WinSport’s Ice Complex.
Braydon Coburn, defenceman of the Philadelphia Flyers, has been a mainstay at the Calgary-based sessions since the fall.
“It’s a very unique circumstance — it’s a good thing it doesn’t happen all that much,” said Coburn. “We’ve been talking about this since September, really, about being optimistic and hopeful. But we’ve just got to be patient and wait and see what happens. Is that easy? No, it’s not easy. But it’s like anything — you’ve got to let the process play out. Whether you like it or not, you deal with that.
“It’s sounds stupid, but I’m trying not to worry about it too much. I’m making sure that whenever we do get going again I’m in the right frame of mind.”
But recently, with talks percolating, with deadlines looming, dates are being chucked around. Training camp could start on this day, the regular season could open on this day.
“I feel like we had this conversation a month ago,” said Stempniak. “Every couple of weeks it seems like there was a revised schedule, whether it was 72 games or a full season or 54 or 56 or something. I’m hopeful that we can get back playing and doing what we love to do.”
For Stempniak, this is his first time through this kind of ordeal. And it is a unique experience.
“I guess the only thing that compares — in terms of the ups and downs, of not knowing what to expect day to day — is my first year (of pro),” he said. “I bounced back and forth between St. Louis and Peoria (of the American Hockey League) and it was constant. I went to the rink every day waiting for the tap on the shoulder to go talk to the coach (to find out) that you were either getting called up or being sent down.
“Just living in limbo. I think that’s the only comparison right now.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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