“During the first month of the lockout, I was going to try to knock down a wall in the house,” Beagle said with a laugh. “My wife came home and stopped me. She asked me to not do that big of a renovation just yet.”
For now he will stick to minor repairs, like replacing light fixtures, and keep to the quiet routine that has dominated his life since September. The uncertainty surrounding the labor dispute made for a difficult transition at times for Beagle, who signed a three-year, $2.7 million contract this summer and fully expected to be building on the momentum from his first full year in the NHL by now. He’s antsy to play and admits he would have tried to find a team overseas if he’d known there still would be no resolution by now.
On Thursday, the 95th day of the lockout, the NHL canceled another block of games through Jan. 14, bringing the total number of contests lost to 625 — 50.8 percent of the season. The latest round of cancellations sets the table for a final chance to salvage the minimum 48-game season. On Wednesday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the deadline to settle the labor dispute is “sometime in mid-January.” By the new year, players will have lost six paychecks.
After weeks of little more than practicing and hoping, Beagle and many of the NHLPA’s rank and file have grown accustomed to the holding pattern. They aren’t the name-brand players like Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who can command a multimillion dollar salary in Europe, but rather average hockey lifers with a finite window in which they can expect to hold down an NHL roster spot.
“You never get those games back, never get those paychecks back. It’s difficult losing this time,” said winger Jason Chimera, who at 33 is in the latter half of his career, already lost a season to the 2004-05 lockout and understands the fleeting nature of a professional athlete’s career. He has already lost $700,540.54 of his $1.7 million salary; Beagle has lost $272,432.43.
As the lockout drags on, Chimera, Beagle and John Carlson pay out of their own pockets four times a week to rent ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where the regular hourly rate is $360. They don’t have access to the team’s practice facilities or trainers, but they work with local power-skating guru Wendy Marco and do as much as they can to ensure their readiness in case a season does take place. In mid-November, after growing restless, Chimera went to the Czech Republic, but returned after less than two weeks with HC Chomutov because he missed his family.