At first glance, not much was different Monday morning at KCI. Thirteen Capitals players skated through a workout, complete with a bag skate, just like the informal workouts they held for the past three weeks.
But the sight of Marcus Johansson, still in his skates and gear, fetching bottles of water and energy drinks from vending machines and the concession stand reminded everyone that, for the third time in 18 years, the players are locked out.
“You’re used to having everything here and now we don’t, but everyone knows what they’re doing,” Johansson said after the workout. “Everybody loves the game. You want to play hockey, but there’s not much to do. We’re not just going to start playing because, as [NHLPA executive director] Don Fehr says, we have to find a good agreement to play under and if we don’t we’re not going to play.”
So what changes now that a lockout is underway?
Team employees are forbidden from communicating with players, and teams can no longer use players for promotional purposes, which is why the league and individual team Web sites have a lot of alumni material up now. Teams cannot trade players during the lockout.
While some teams may cut staff, the Capitals have no plans to lay off personnel or reduce salaries during the lockout, Monumental Sports and Entertainment spokesman Kurt Kehl said.
As for the players, they aren’t permitted to use the team’s private facilities. But they can pay for ice time out of their own pockets, use public dressing rooms, bring their own gear and pucks, find a gym where they can lift weights and organize their own workout routine. That’s what they did Monday, and that’s what they will continue to do throughout the lockout.
“It’s not that big of an adjustment,” said Brooks Laich, the Capitals’ NHLPA player representative. “We’re still on the same plan that we would be before training camp. Ordinarily rookie camp would be going on, and we’d still be skating and working out after. The amenities and facilities change a little bit but our attitude and preparation doesn’t.”
Those on the ice at KCI Monday were: Johansson, Laich, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Jason Chimera, Michal Neuvirth, Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Stanislav Galiev, Mattias Sjogren and Sergei Kostenko.
The group will fluctuate, though, as players sign contracts elsewhere or return to their offseason homes. Neuvirth is close to signing a deal to play in the Czech Extraliga and may leave North America as early as Tuesday. Orlov, Galiev, Sjogren and Kostenko who will attend the Bears’ camp, which opens Sept. 30, said they’ll likely head to Hershey in a week.
Backstrom and Johansson will stay in Washington for the time being, but if the Swedish Elite League changes its stance and allows teams to sign locked out NHL players to short-term deals they may depart as well. The second- and third-tier Swedish leagues will allow short-term contracts, though.
Players know the longer the lockout lasts, the more guys will scatter to play overseas. They don’t want to hang around and train indefinitely, unsure of when they might play again. But they aren’t willing to sacrifice their bargaining principles either.
“I still think there’s a deal to be had out there,” Chimera said. “The training camp start date hasn’t even happened yet. They just had it planned to lock us out on a certain date, and they’re not really cooperating in trying to keep to a bargaining schedule.
“It’s up to the owners. We want to keep playing. We said all along we want to keep playing and hammer out [a new collective bargaining agreement] while we’re playing. The owners have to take into effect that they’re locking out a lot of people not just us. They’re locking out the parking attendants, the concession guys, a lot of people who count on that income. They’ve got to take that into account too and sleep with that too.”