The usual sounds heard in Rogers Arena at this time of year are, well, not being heard at all.No skates scraping on the ice or pucks ringing off the crossbar. No laughter emulating from the dressing room of the Vancouver Canucks – not at this dressing room that is. Drive across town to the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Arena and it is a different story.
There may be no season for now, but that is not stopping the Canucks from preparing themselves to be ready to play hockey at any moment. After a good week which included the Canucks resigning Alex Burrows to a four year extension, most of the players are stuck conducting player-led practices at Thunderbird Arena. Even so, their hopes are high and their attitudes positive as they focus on hockey and spending time together as a team.
“I think we were expecting this (the lockout) but it doesn’t matter. I’m in a great spot with a great team and in a great city. I can’t complain,” Maxim Lapierre told The Province.
Canucks regulars such as the Sedins, Kevin Bieksa, Cory Schneider, Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra, Mason Raymond and Lapierre, as well as LA King Willie Mitchell and five Canucks’ prospects have attended these impromptu practices. Players are paying for the ice and laundering their own jerseys.
“We’re all trying to come up with some drills,” Daniel Sedin told the Vancouver Sun. “That’s the tough part.”
This core group of players will be working out in Vancouver for at least a few more weeks and will begin to make decisions about where or if they will play somewhere else in a month or two after the NHL and NHLPA have a few more discussions about the remainder of the season. The Canucks will not only be skating together, but working in the weight room and cross-training together.
“Working out and skating five days a week could get boring fast so we’ve made plans to have a day in between where we’re going to do some cross training and make it as fun as possible,” said Hamhuis told the Vancouver Sun. “Whether it’s soccer or maybe beach volleyball or something, we’re going to be creative and make it fun.”
Hamhuis has been taking it one step further, working on his skating with power skating coach Barb Aidelbaum after his teammates leave the rink.
The players still in Vancouver took it one step further as well, taking a stand by practicing with their jerseys flipped inside-out so that the Canucks logo is no longer visible. Many of the players believe that the fans – not to mention the Canucks full-time staff who are now working four day weeks with a pay cut – are the ones suffering the most from the lockout and that the owners and the NHL are responsible to solve the issue.
“It’s ridiculous and I think everybody sees that,” Bieksa told the Vancouver Sun of the owner’s hypocrisy. “If you don’t see that, you are blind. Obviously, the problem is with them, the problem isn’t with us making too much. It’s them overpaying guys and creating their own problems so to speak. They could fix themselves without asking for rollbacks or concessions from us.”
As for other members of the Canucks, Roberto Luongo has returned to Florida, leaving Schneider as the only goaltender in Vancouver; Eddie Lack is training in Chicago to prepare for another season with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate team.
No Canucks have signed in Europe, but it is definitely an option for Jannik Hansen. His old team, the Rødovre Mighty Bulls, would love to have him back. However, he is waiting to see how long the lockout will last; there is no point in going to Denmark just to play for a few weeks.
“I will wait a little and hopefully soon get a little clarity…But if it is a whole season, I will of course play,” Hansen told the Vancouver Sun.
As well, Markus Naslund has expressed his desire for the Sedins to go play hockey in Sweden this year.
“Yeah, it would be fun to be able to help, but we talked this summer and told Markus we’d have to wait and see,” Henrik told the Vancouver Sun after skating Thursday at UBC. “If it’s going to be a long lockout then we’ll make a decision.”
While Gary Bettman and the NHL may not be ready for the hockey season to start yet, the Canucks certainly are. Until they step on the ice at Rogers Arena together again, this fall may feel a bit off without the usual hockey hype spread throughout the city. But never fear - this lockout will not prevent the Canucks from maintaining a desire to win; it seems the city of Vancouver needs that more now than ever.