Here’s my story from The Journal News and Lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
GREENBURGH – The Rangers hit the ice Monday – well, 15 of them did – and though they’d skated in groups throughout periods of the NHL owners’ lockout, this was different.
“It was great,” new Rangers power winger Rick Nash said. “It’s one thing to be out there skating and wondering when things are going to be happening, but it’s another thing when you’re out there skating and you know things are done and the season’s coming. It seems like everyone has a little extra jump in their step.”
Training camp and the actual start of the season are still being held up by the ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement, reached in principal Sunday morning.
It is expected that camps won’t officially open – meaning coaches present and mandatory workouts, etc. – until Saturday or maybe even Sunday. The regular-season, therefore, is anticipated to be 48 games worth of intra-conference play (not the 50 the league had hoped), beginning Jan. 19.
“Everything’s going to be more magnified,” Brad Richards said. “It’s more like a playoff mentality where, if you dwell on things good or bad it could spiral quickly. We don’t want to do that. We want to try to build on everything. Forty-eight games, you’re going to need a good start and that’s just obvious. There’s not many games to regroup if you don’t get off on the right foot.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella, who could not be with the skaters on the ice (and who insisted Marian Gaborik’s off-season shoulder surgery is completely healed), said he believes that the returning core of players maintained contact with the new players and that they all know the grueling camp that awaits, albeit short. And he is confident they will be ready for it.
He said he doesn’t believe last year’s success – best record in the East and a berth in the Eastern finals – is what motivates the Rangers.
“I think the hunger is that they’re together again and will be a team again,” Tortorella said. “We’ve gone through a few years of trying to cultivate it. I think the room is good. I think that’s what they want to get back to, and competing. That’s all these guys know how to do, is compete. That’s what they’re anxious to do. Sure they were excited about last year; we made some good steps ahead. But I think right now, they just want to play.”
The players are certainly not oblivious to the harm the 113-day lockout may have caused, or the toll it took on the fans.
“It’s their right to feel how they feel and I don’t blame them,” Richards said. “Unless you’re in the meetings and living it, it’s really hard to understand. I don’t blame them if they don’t come back. I hope everybody gives us a chance ot watch what I think is a great sport and to get out there and play our hearts out like we want to do. That’s what the game of hockey’s about, not what’s happened here the last four months.”
Nash was asked if there needs to be some damage control done.
“For sure,” he said. “We missed the game just as much as they did. Obviously we’re not happy with the way everything went down, but we’ve got to look ahead, look at the future, look at the positives. It’s back and hopefully everyone will be supportive of the NHL and the players and we can just go on with the greatest game.”