Central Alberta NHL stars glad to be back in action
National Hockey League players Curtis Glencross and Colin Fraser can understand the fan resentment that festered during the recently-concluded lockout.
Yet, neither of the Sylvan Lake summer residents feel that dedicated followers of the world’s premier league should take the situation personally.
“It’s one of these things where we as players are hockey fans, too,” said Glencross, who’s back in Calgary preparing for Sunday’s physicals and the start of Flames training camp on Monday.
“We’re guys who love the game and love to play the game. It’s not like we wanted to sit out instead of playing the game we love. Like with any business, there were issues that had to be sorted out before things kind of got going again and that’s the way we have to look at it.
“Everyone kind of says players are getting paid so much money, why can’t they just play for the love of the game? But it’s business. It’s business for everybody. No one wanted to sit out. We all wanted to play.”
Fraser, who signed a two-year deal with the Stanley Cup champion Kings in June and returned to Los Angeles in October to await the birth of his and wife Carli’s second child, also identifies with the fan frustration. But he added that it’s a two-way street.
“They want to watch, and with that being said we want to play,” said Fraser. “It’s not about being greedy — it’s about getting a fair deal. We were never asking for more of anything (during the lockout), we were just trying to give up the least we could.
“It was probably a longer process than anyone thought and anyone wanted it to be, but at the end of the day a deal got done.
There’s a side of sports that everyone kind of has to deal with, it’s just unfortunate that there were so many people affected (by the lockout). Not only the fans, but all the people who work in the rinks, bars and restaurants. That’s the unfortunate part of it, but we (players) are in this, too. We couldn’t just sit there and let the owners do whatever they want.”
Glencross stressed that NHL players are merely human and can feel the pain suffered by all sides.
“I’m just a regular guy, just like everyone else,” he said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the players who were effected by this. It hit the ticket sales people, the concession people, the arena workers, the bar owners. It hurt everyone. In general, it was no fun for anyone.”
Fraser suggested that the players had no choice but to hold out for the best deal, particularly after the 2004 lockout resulted in the loss of an entire season.
“The players had already given up so much,” he insisted. “Now the owners wanted more and the players weren’t willing to give them more again. We had already lost a season and it was time to put our foot down and kind of say we were taken advantage of the last time and enough is enough.”
Now that the ice logos and decals are being placed in NHL rinks and the league is set to resume on Jan. 19, Glencross and Fraser are set to forge ahead.
“Absolutely, it’s a been a long wait,” said Glencross. “I’m ready to get back into the thick of things. It’s going to be a quick season, but at least we could salvage a season.”
Through the lockout, Glencross skated with roughly a dozen Flames teammates at Calgary WinSport and along with Kris Russell (St. Louis Blues) and Brandon Sutter (Pittsburgh Penguins), worked out with the Red Deer Rebels in late December.
Glencross is of the opinion that the lockout concluded with a fair deal for both the players and owners.
“It’s decent, both sides had to give a little but that’s what negotiations are for and that’s how things are solved,” he said. “The big positive is it’s a 10-year agreement. Hopefully I won’t have to deal with another lockout in my career.”
“Let’s move on and play hockey,” said Fraser. “The games are going to come hot and heavy now . . . a lot of games in a short amount of time, which I think is a good thing. Let’s put the past behind us and move forward. Let’s just play hockey.”
While Flames fans will likely return in droves, it might be a different situation in southern California, where the sport gained some serious traction with the Kings’ Stanley Cup triumph.
“It’s unfortunate that fans are mad and maybe they don’t come back, but hopefully they will,” said Fraser. “We have to get the game to grow here again.”
Fraser is cautiously optimistic that the fans of L.A. will eventually return to the Staples Center, especially if the Kings pick up where they left off.
“Even when I came to Los Angeles from Chicago and Edmonton, I could see that the fans were great here, and now they’re even better,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the lockout happened just as we got the ball rolling here. It was probably a little buzz kill, but I don’t think it will take long to get the fans back. Winning cures everything.”