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As NHL lockout drags on, training camps officially on hold

Players, such as Senators forward Jason Spezza, have been trying to stay ready by skating during...

Players, such as Senators forward Jason Spezza, have been trying to stay ready by skating during the NHL lockout, which is set to continue during training camps. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:21 PM ET

The lockout will hit home Friday.

The first week of the lockout is nearly in the books and it looks like it's going to pass without a peep between the two sides, with no talks planned between the NHL and the NHL Players Association anytime in the near future.

While 61 pre-season games were wiped out by the NHL Wednesday, it's expected the 46 that weren't cancelled will be next week. The official postponement of the start of the regular season on Oct. 11 will take place early next month.

The lockout is now shifting into high gear.

Instead of getting poked, prodded and checked out by the medical staff prior to the opening of training camps, players will load up their equipment, head for an informal workout and continue to try to find jobs in Europe to stay busy.

"The lockout has hit home already for guys," said Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza Thursday. "The fact is, we're kind of skating on our own and fending for ourselves.

"You don't have the comforts of being with the team and working out at the rink. Whether it was an artificial date or not, Sept. 15 kind of became the date that training camp would have started even though it would have started (Friday). We kind of had that feeling on Sept. 15th."

The Canadian NHL teams -- Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary -- were all supposed to open their training camps Friday with medicals. The first on-ice sessions were scheduled for Saturday.

All are on hold.

Players across the league have been scrambling to stay ready since getting the word they were locked out. The players are paying approximately $500 an hour for ice time in Tampa, where there aren't a lot of rinks to choose from.

The Philadelphia players who have stuck around to work out at the Flyers' Skate-Zone are shelling out around $350. In Ottawa, it's approximately $350 for players to get ice time and use of the workout facilities at the Bell Sensplex.

"The whole feeling is strange. It's a little bit frustrating because you've worked all summer and you want to be playing," said Spezza. "We understand what's going on. It's unfortunate it's gotten to this."

None of this is normal practice by any means.

The NHL even cut off the players' medical and dental benefits, effective Sept. 16. The NHLPA is providing coverage but it's another reminder the two sides are in a nasty labour dispute.

Unlike the last lockout in 2004, players have been quick to jump on jobs overseas, which has left many feeling that this work stoppage is going to go a lot longer and get a lot uglier before the two sides sit down to settle a deal.

Spezza, who signed with Rapperswil in the Swiss league Wednesday, said that's not the case.

"I even talked to (his teammates). I don't want the (perception) to be that because I'm going to play I think this thing is going to go for a long time," said Spezza. "I'm going to play because I want my family to be set up and Switzerland is the place I want to be. They told me they can wait around."

A lot of players are going to wait around and see what happens because they hope this get settled quickly.

"The whole process is not going the way we wanted it to," Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf told the Orange County Register. "I wish it was going a lot better than it is right now. It's one of those things where you've got to take your time with it and make sure we get it right.

"We can't do this every seven years and be locked out again. Especially when we felt we made a lot of different concessions throughout this process and basically seven years ago, we missed a season and got walked all over. We've got to fight for the things that are going to help the game throughout this time."

With the start of camp now passing, the weeks and months will tell us how much fight each side has in them.

NHLERS PAYING TO PLAY

The biggest winner in the NHL lockout could be the insurance companies, especially if the highest-paid players decide to ply their trade overseas.

Two executives told QMI Agency the typical cost for insurance is approximately $3,000 per-month for every $1 million you have left on your contract. For example, centre Jason Spezza's insurance is likely around $50,000 per-month.

"Basically I'm playing for free," said Spezza.

Spezza did insure his whole contract but some will not.

Here's a look at possible insurance costs on some deals. These prices are per-month.

• Shea Weber, NSH, $110M, $330,000
• Sidney Crosby, PIT, $104M, $312,000
• Ilya Kovalchuk, NJD, $100M, $300,000
• Zach Parise, MIN, $98M, $294,000
• Rick Nash, NYR, $62M, $182,000
• Brad Richards, NYR, $60M, $180,000
• Eric Staal, CAR, $57M, $171,000
• Evgeni Malkin, PIT, $43M, $129,000
• Christian Erhoff, BUF, $40M, $120,000

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch


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