On a dreary Tuesday morning, eight guys -- seven sporting blank jerseys -- rented ice and skated for about 90 minutes.
At the end of their session, those same guys skated towards the far end of the rink, stepped off the ice and into a locker room that they had open with a key loaned out by the front desk. They showered, packed their hockey bags and carried their sticks to their cars, shielding themselves from the rain as they drove away.
If you didn't know any better, this sounds like nothing more than a bunch of normal guys with a lot of free time on a Tuesday, but that group was actually comprised of seven locked out members of the Washington Capitals (the eighth was former Caps goaltender Brent Johnson, who wore Pittsburgh Penguins gear) holding an informal workout on Day 3 of the second NHL lockout in eight years.
"It's obviously weird, but going into it, we knew that if something didn't get done, this was going to be our life for hopefully just a little bit," forward Jay Beagle said, bucket of pucks lying next to his feet. "It's not a surprise that we've got to carry our own pucks and waters and rent our own ice, but obviously, it's not ideal."
During the lockout, players are not allowed to utilize their respective team's private facilities or contact team employees. As of 11:59 p.m. ET last Saturday evening, the doors to the Caps' locker room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex are closed to them and will remain as such for the foreseeable future.
With the start of the 2012-13 season -- and perhaps the entire season -- in doubt, players throughout the NHL have already headed overseas to join clubs in Europe. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth was the first Washington player to officially sign elsewhere, joining HC Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga Tuesday. Forward/captain Alex Ovechkin, currently in Russia, will likely be the next to do so, having expressed interest in playing in the country's Kontinental Hockey League.
Ovechkin said in a Russian interview Monday that "if the [NHL] continues to insist on their [demands], then [the lockout] will take a full year." With no paychecks coming their way during the lockout (minus one escrow check in October that counts for eight percent of their salaries from last season), other Caps have started putting thought into their own futures.
"I'm looking for some options, but we'll see," forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "It has to be the right thing, too. Obviously, I have my home team back in Sweden [Brynäs IF]. There's a lot [that] has to click before I go."
"You've got to play," he continued, adding that he believes the lockout will last until at least November. "I want to know a little bit more about this deal here and see how long it's gonna take. If it's going to be longer than Christmas, then obviously you have to play somewhere."
"Players want to play hockey," forward Brooks Laich said, echoing Backstrom's sentiment. "If they're not gonna allow us to do it here, we're gonna look at other options."
Training camp was scheduled to begin Friday, but that will more than likely not go on as scheduled (the Caps also officially canceled their annual rookie game against the Philadelphia Flyers, which was set for Thursday). Laich said Tuesday that he'd "rather be around the guys," but there is only so much time that players can practice informally before adversity trumps camaraderie.
"I'd prefer to be around our own guys," Laich said. "But the longer it goes, I'm sure you're gonna look for opportunities to play real games."
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