Canucks 'giddy' as they prepare for NHL season
Canucks defencemen Alex Edler (left) and Kevin Bieksa take to the ice Monday at UBC. (Reuters)
It came as no surprise Monday when Kevin Bieksa admitted there was an “extra step, an extra jump” to the 10 NHLers skating at the University of B.C.
Much different than those same drills and scrimmages in the weeks and months prior, the Vancouver Canucks contingent that turned out to practise with the Thunderbirds this time around finally have a season to look forward to.
So indubitably — a day after a tentative collective bargaining agreement was announced by the league and players’ union — the Canucks defenceman was quite eager to focus on just playing hockey again.
“Guys are kind of giddy,” Bieksa said. “It’s the start of a new season so it’s definitely been a bit of a different skate out here than most days. We can get back to … having fun again.”
Despite a shortened season in sight, questions about the past few months of squabbling between the owners and players still needed to be addressed. The outspoken blueliner, however, was unwilling to pick a winner from the 113-day ordeal, adding it wasn’t just the fan base that suffered.
“Fans aren’t the only losers,” he said. “The league lost a lot of money, the players lost a lot of money. Vendors lost a lot of money, restaurants.
“We can put this behind us now and we’ll make it all back now to them.”
Meanwhile, for a player who has been actively involved with the negotiations, Manny Malhotra affirmed it was a good deal for the two parties involved.
“From what I understand of it, and the general overview that we did, I feel it’s a fair deal for both sides — both economically and on the non-core economic issues,” the Canucks centre said. “I felt we fought for the right things and we were able to achieve a CBA that was fair.”
Patience, which NHLPA executive director Don Fehr stressed from the beginning, was key in getting the right contract for the players, Malhotra added.
“When you look at where (the NHL’s) proposal was starting September, October, November, it’s nowhere close to where we are today,” he said. “Had guys not had the patience and not have been unified as we were this time and not kept up to date on how the system would affect us, I don’t think we would have gotten near as good a deal as we do right now.
“I can’t wait just to get back to playing and not talking about boardrooms and negotiations and stuff. It’s time to get back to work and give the fans some hockey.”
With the season expected to start Jan. 19, the Canucks may be a step behind when it comes to being in game-shape, as most players haven’t seen actual competitive action in months — with only Cory Schneider, Dale Weise, Jannik Hansen, and Mason Raymond (briefly) playing overseas. But even so, the excitement for what a condensed 48-game schedule may hold remains high.
“It’s going to be a sprint,” captain Henrik Sedin said. “You got to get off to a good start and it’s going to be a playoff race from Game 1. That’s the way it should be.”