September 15th has come and gone without a new CBA agreement being reached. The NHL and NHLPA are now playing a game of lockout chicken that could last a while. In the meantime the players must figure out what to do.
I remember very clearly how I felt when the last lockout began… ‘ok, so now what?’ I had already made a plan in my mind to head overseas after Christmas to play if the lockout was still in effect but it was the day to day plans that were harder to figure out. No one knew how long the lockout would last.
Staying in good shape was a priority, especially when I was fighting for a new contract every year. But how to approach that? It is impossible to hit the gym hard every day, week after week for an endless period of time. Your body and mind both give out.
For summer workouts, the end is training camp so you plan your hard work periods, some down weeks and prepare to peak in the middle of September. It is actually a pretty easy process. But with no end in sight the planning becomes more difficult. Without a plan, your conditioning can easily slip away from you. I saw more than a few players who looked like they swallowed a beer barrel by Christmas!
The same went for skating. It got a little old heading to skate at the Knights of Columbus twin rinks every morning. Although it was nice to see the other guys, the skates went from organized practices to five versus five dangle fests pretty quickly. I have never tried to toe drag guys more often, even going back to street hockey when I was ten! Socially it was fun but my hockey skills were not as sharp as I wanted.
About a month into the lockout I went to the horse races with a couple of other players and we all were feeling the same. We had the same questions and issues. What should we do? How are your workouts going? What are you up to? Are you going to play somewhere?
Hockey players are creatures of habit. For so many years, your life is set in stone. Train and skate all summer, go to training camp, play through the season, rest and then start all over in the summer. Suddenly there was a big glitch in the routine. We were all trying to figure it out.
I actually really began to enjoy other activities. With the NHL schedule being so intense there is not a lot of time for anything else. I got a chance to downhill ski, cross-country ski and even to help a friend with a home renovation. It was all fun but most of the time I was wondering where the CBA negotiations were at.
There were more rumors about the CBA going around then a guy could handle. Someone would text and say the negotiations were heating up, get ready to play. The next week another player would call and say it was hopeless. Talk about up and down!
Although I went over to play in Hungary just before the lockout officially wiped out the season, just getting on that plane to fly there put all those rumors in my rear view mirror. It was a good feeling. I was going to do what I wanted to do, play hockey, the CBA would look after itself.
My advice to all NHLPA players is to go and play, somewhere, anywhere. Get into your normal routine of playing. Time will pass a lot quicker. Don’t wait, find a team now either in one of the North American or European leagues. You can stay updated with negotiations through in the Internet. I promise you will not miss a bit of info!
Jaromir Jagr (s.yume/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Already on Sunday, about a dozen players, some very high profile, like Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Datsyuk, have already committed to teams in Europe. They are the smart ones. No doubt there will be some issues to work out especially player insurance. This can be resolved. If Datsyuk found a way, everyone can.
Go play, take your mind off the CBA negotiations. Settle into your normal hockey season, even though it might not be in the NHL. You will be better prepared when the season does start up… if and when it starts.