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By Courtney Boslough
On January 6, 2013 the NHL lockout, that started on September 15, 2012 and lasted 113 days, ended. The owners of the NHL, including Commissioner Gary Bettman, declared a lockout of the National Hockey League after a new agreement between the League Players Association and the NHL could not be reached. A total of 625 regular season games out of 1,230 were cancelled as a result of the lockout. On January 6, the league lifted the lockout after the announcement of a tentative collective bargaining agreement with the intention of starting the season on either January 15 or 19, 2013.
The Philadelphia Flyers could not be any more eager of an agreement taking place. Kimmo Timonen said of practicing on the offseason, “I’ll be honest, the motivation level was under zero. It was really hard, especially in December, when my hopes were up that we were going to settle this thing and it didn’t happen. Christmas was coming. January was coming. Nothing was happening. Sometimes, it was just me and Jody Shelley here. Just the two of us, no goalies.”
As the 113 day lockout progressed, Flyers would show up to practice as the rumors came out of an agreement, but would end up going back to warmer places like Southern California to practice after the rumors were denied.
The worst part about training for hockey is that skating muscles aren’t muscles that can be worked on by running or working out at a regular gym, they need to continually skate to keep their muscle memory in tact. Shelley said, “You have to skate. It would have been easy to skip practice, but you don’t have a choice. You can run, you can bike, you can do all sorts of fun stuff, but it’s completely different than playing. We kept tabs on other players, we knew they were pushing themselves elsewhere. We had to keep up.”
Veterns Timonen, Boucher, Shelley, and Andreas Lilja had to be worried about the lockout more than other players on the team. For the four of the players, this is the last year of their contracts and if the season had been cancelled all would have been free agents, with the possible chance of no future offer. “The clock was ticking for sure. I was getting worried. I don’t have many years left; I don’t know how many, for sure. This would have been a big missed year in my case. I was like, ‘Wow, maybe I ought to start thinking about Finland and playing there,'” Timonen said.
It was tough for the players who needed to train. They just wanted to get back on the ice and start playing. Shelley said, “Honestly, I think we just got through this by helping each other. We had the ice team. We had to use it. We had a high of maybe 10 guys on the ice at one time. We did finally get to a point where we thought, ‘Wow, maybe this thing is going south.'”
Lilja said, “I came to the rink toward the end just because I liked being around the group. I’d be gone for a day or two, but I’d miss the guys. You felt like you were doing them wrong if you didn’t show up and left them with less guys. We would trade rumors and gossip about the latest happenings but mostly you’d just have to laugh. We lived on hope.”
At least now the players can rest easy and train hard. As Philadelphia fans, the excitement is growing and buzzing throughout the city and surrounding area.