ALBANY, N.Y. -- The only trip Harry Neale will make tonight is going to be to the garage of his Buffalo home. On the eve of what was supposed to be the season premiere of Hockey Night in Canada -- the Senators playing the Maple Leafs at Toronto's Air Canada Centre -- Neale was throwing out some of the junk in his garage since it was too wet to golf.
"If it wasn't raining (yesterday), I'd be on the golf course," said Neale. "You're lucky I'm here. My game has never been better. I figure I've got about two weeks left to play golf and then I don't know what the hell I'm going to do with myself.
"Am I going to miss not being there? I've only been going to games on Saturday nights for about 35 years ... Nah, I won't miss it at all. I'll probably play golf (today) and then spend the night wondering what to do with myself."
The NHL lockout will hit home for Canadians tonight when the country's Saturday night TV tradition isn't on the tube at 7 p.m. Normally, Neale would be sitting beside his buddy Bob Cole tonight. Instead, he'll sit across the table from his wife.
Actually, Neale has already started to miss hockey. It happened for him after the World Cup ended last month, when he didn't have any pre-season work with Leafs play-by-play man Joe Bowen.
Since the World Cup tourney ended with Canada's victory on Sept. 14, Neale has been playing golf with neighbors Lindy Ruff and Don Lever of the Buffalo Sabres, along with close friend Scotty Bowman.
"I've just been trying to stay busy with all the other guys who are like me and have nothing to do," said Neale with a laugh. "I don't know what's next for me. I was going to apply to be the pool boy at (agent) Don Meehan's place in Florida for $25 a week, but I think a lot of guys have applied for that job.
"I haven't told (Senators GM John) Muckler, but I'm going to go to his place in Florida for a couple of weeks if this thing drags on. Hopefully, I can get it for a good price from Muckler."
Neale, a former GM/coach with the Vancouver Canucks, is hopeful the NHL and its players' association will find common ground to get a collective bargaining agreement in place so everybody can get back into the rinks.
Neale won't take sides in the dispute. He'd just like to see cooler heads prevail because Neale believes missing a full season of hockey would be harmful for the game. And no, he's not offering any ideas for a solution.
"I guess there's going to have to be some bloodletting on both sides before this can be settled," said Neale. "Everybody knows what's happening here isn't good for the game. There's a lot of people losing a lot of money in this.
"I was talking to (Chicago's) Matthew Barnaby at my golf club the other day. He just signed a three-year, $5.2-million (all terms US) contract with the Hawks. That might be his last contract and he's not going to get that money back.
"I said to him, 'Maybe you should call (Bob) Goodenow because there's no negotiations right now.' He told me he's a union guy and I can understand that. I just think it's tough for some of these players.
"There are some older players who are going to lose this year of hockey and they're never going to get it back. I think of guys on the Leafs like (Joe) Nieuwendyk, (Gary) Roberts and (Brian) Leetch. They don't need the money, but they've had great careers and they might not get another chance."
Neale just wants to get back to work.
"Once golf season is over, I'm really going to be screwed," said Neale.
Just how hockey fans feel.