by Ted Starkey and Dave Nichols
“It’s not going to be perfect, but we’re happy to be back.” GM George McPhee
Just over 54 hours after the tentative end to the NHL lockout, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was back at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and skating with nine of his teammates in informal workouts as the NHL and NHLPA work out final details in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
There’s a quick return to some normalcy in the National Hockey League after the 113-day lockout, as Washington players filter back into town and the team prepares for a truncated 2012-13 season that likely begins next weekend.
GM George McPhee spoke to reporters for the first time since the lockout Tuesday morning and though he would not comment on the health of any players until the new CBA is ratified and training camp opens, he indicated a hope that camp would open this coming Saturday and the informal workouts would be legitimate NHL practices — the first under new head coach Adam Oates.
“There are going to be a lot of unknowns here,” McPhee said about the shortened season. “No one knows what this is going to look like, who’s in shape, who’s not. Who gets off to the fast start, who doesn’t. It’s going to be like 48 playoff games.”
Oates joked that this situation wasn’t really how he envisioned starting his NHL coaching career, but that he was excited to get on the ice with his new team, whenever that officially might happen. “You can’t prepare for how long it’s going to be, but mentally you put yourself in a place where you understand it. We still haven’t really heard how long we’re going to have for camp. We have a lot of scenarios in place and we’re waiting to get going and start the process.”
Along with Ovechkin, a bearded Mike Green, John Carlson and new Cap Mike Ribeiro skated through an hour-long workout before training camp opens sometime this weekend, shooting on Braden Holtby – back from his stint in Hershey – and video coordinator Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt, who returns to the team after working in the league offices the past two seasons.
Ovechkin commented on playing in Russia in his first workout in North America since September.
“I think the difference is, the fans here and there are different fans,” he said. “Here, it’s loud and sold out every game, in Russia it’s a different scenario. I enjoyed playing there, I enjoyed playing for Dynamo fans, because, again, I know what’s exactly going to happen. They sing songs there. … It’s a different situation how fans cheer for their favorite team.”
The star did comment on his threats to potentially stay in Russia.
“Of course, first of all, I want to find out what the deal is,” he said. “What’s going to be the situation with my contract. And the contract is for the future of our players. But again, everything right now, it’s over … It was a hard time, but I think everybody miss hockey …. It’s nice to be back.”
Holtby, in his first skate at Kettler since the Bears played a game at Verizon Center back on Dec. 6, was also relieved to be back and getting a chance to play for a starting NHL role.
“Obviously, it’s great to have all the guys back, not just Alex,” he said. “I didn’t pay attention too much about that. I couldn’t even tell you what he said. I’m just happy to see all the guys again.”