Locked out as a player, locked in as a coach.
James Patrick has seen both sides of the dead bolt, and you might be surprised which one the Winnipegger dislikes more.
“I feel worse now as a coach,” the assistant with the Buffalo Sabres was saying during some down time in Buffalo this week.
Down time? It’s become his daily companion.
“Back then you’re still thinking like an athlete,” Patrick said of the 2004-05 season, when he still fancied playing, even at age 41. “You’re going to the gym and skating five days a week.”
Not to mention being an assistant coach for his 12-year-old daughter’s team and spending a couple nights a week taking a real estate course.
“It felt like I was busy. Now as a coach I really can identify with guys who don’t have a job and are struggling with what to do.
“It is a bit of a challenge.”
The daughter, after all, is 20 and well on her way to a university degree.
And Patrick ditched the real estate idea for a career trying to get the most out of players instead of property.
Only he’s got no players, and might not have for a while.
If it wasn’t for the start of AHL training camp down on the Sabres farm, in nearby Rochester, N.Y., Patrick doesn’t know what he’d do with himself.
But he knows how players should handle a long shutdown, which is what we appear to be heading for.
The NHL cancelled its remaining slate of preseason games, Thursday, which could well spur a second wave of players bolting for dollars abroad.
The hypocrisy of this exercise — standing in solidarity as a union, but not thinking twice about taking the job of a poor slug trying to make a living in Europe — seems rather apparent.
But there’s another side to the argument, one that Patrick didn’t mind saddling up and taking for a ride.
One of the better thoroughbreds to ever emerge from the Winnipeg stable, Patrick’s 21-year big-league playing career produced 639 regular-season points.
But he makes an equally good one about why players, especially young ones, shouldn’t hesitate to board a flight to Russia or Switzerland or Sweden or anywhere they can play against high-end talent.
“I’m thinking of what would help our team most,” Patrick said. “In the last lockout, Brian Campbell played the year in Finland, and it was the best thing possible for his career.”
Patrick had played with Campbell at the end of his Sabres career, and saw the huge potential in the kid.
“He worked harder than any young defenceman I played with. But he had a long way to go. He was a bit of a wild horse who could skate, but had to improve his two-way game.”
A year off at that stage of his career (Campbell was 25 and in his sixth year as a pro) would have weighed Campbell down like a 300-pound jockey.
“He came back and became one of our top-four defencemen, and continues to get better and better,” Patrick said. “Going over was the best thing possible for him and the Sabres.”
The San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers, whom Campbell has played for, since, are glad he did, too.
Patrick didn’t go overseas in ’04, mainly because he was near the end of his playing days, anyway.
And, like he said, he had plenty to do.
Eight years later, not so much.
He and the rest of the Sabres coaches have taken to reviewing the year-end review they already did.
He’ll read the online newspaper accounts from his hometown, where the Jets frenzy produces daily updates, compared to stories maybe once every other day in Buffalo.
And starting Thursday he had the task of trying to stay out of the way at an AHL camp.
“We’ll at least be able to watch it,” he said.
For a lifetime hockey guy, it's barely a crumb.