While they are members of the Red Deer Rebels alumni and are grateful for the opportunity to skate with the current edition of the Western Hockey League team, Colin Fraser and Brandon Sutter would much rather be with their NHL squads.
But, of course, they are locked out, a frustrating situation that is softened somewhat by attending the Rebels’ daily practice sessions at the Centrium.
“It’s a waiting game, obviously, the business side of the game is just a part of it,” Fraser said on Thursday. “We just have to wait it out and it’s nice to skate with the guys here and get in a good workout.”
Fraser is itching to get back to work with the Los Angeles Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champs, and yet he suspects that coming off a championship season does not make him an exception among NHL players.
“It’s funny. You play into the middle of June or whatever and people joke that maybe it’s a benefit to you to get some extra rest, but at the same time I think we’re all excited to play,” he said. “Everybody wants to play. You ask guys why they go to Europe (during a NHL labour dispute) and it’s just to play. It’s not even about the money. You just want to stay in shape because that’s one thing we all like — playing the game.”
As for the prospect of heading overseas while the powers that be attempt to hammer out an agreement between the owners and players, Fraser doesn’t see himself hauling out his passport any time soon.
“For me, no. I have a family and another (child) on the way,” he said. “If that’s an option it wouldn’t be for me until the worse scenario came about and that would be that there’s no season, and everybody is thinking and hoping that’s not going to happen.”
Sutter also hasn’t looked at the possibility of heading to Europe, at least not seriously.
“I’ve maybe considered it a bit . . . I’ve had a bit of interest, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for that kind of move,” he said. “A lot of players feel they should sit and wait for another three to four weeks and then see where we’re at. By then we should have a pretty good idea of when we’re going to start playing or how long (the lockout) is going to be.
“So it would be tough to move all the way over there (Europe) and then come back in a week or two, so this is something I want to stay patient with. This works well for now, we’re getting good ice time here with the Rebels and it’s a good way to stay sharp.”
Sutter is certainly fired up about the prospect of joining his new NHL team. He was dealt from the Carolina Hurricanes to Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins in June and is pumped about the opportunity that awaits him.
“It’s tough. I’m anxious,” he said.
“I finally went down there (Pittsburgh) for awhile earlier this month, found a place to live and got to know the guys and stuff like that. Now I have to sit and wait. I’m anxious to get going but we just have to be patient with this and hopefully we can find the right deal.”
When the last NHL lockout occurred in 2004-05, Fraser was just completing his final season with the Rebels and Sutter was coming aboard on a five-game trial as a 15-year-old.
“It’s a whole new thing for me,” said Sutter.
“I’ve never been home at this time of the year since I played junior here. It’s kind of a different feeling. I guess there are worse places to be than home, but I think over the next couple of weeks here I’m going to start getting antsy.
“We’ll see how it goes. This is a place to skate and it’s nice to skate with these guys and stay in shape and try to stay sharp, so that part has worked out perfectly.”
Fraser is also grateful for the ice time, but moves away from the pack when various game-day tactics are discussed during the practice sessions.
“They’re trying to do business here, I just try and stay out of the way when they’re doing systems and line drills,” he said. “It’s nice to have some structure and being out there with the players brings back memories. Hanging out with the guys is fun, it makes me feel young again. Not that I’m that old.”