SUN Hockey Pool

French boast

Steve Reinprecht is enjoying his time playing hockey in France during the NHL lockout. (File Photo)

Steve Reinprecht is enjoying his time playing hockey in France during the NHL lockout. (File Photo)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Fretting in France? Not Steve Reinprecht. Reinprecht, who is toiling for Mulhouse in France's top hockey loop, was one of the first NHLers to head to Europe -- along with fellow Flame Steve Montador -- when the lockout began.

Even though the padlocks have been on the NHL arena doors for nearly nine weeks, he's not getting antsy.

"I think most players realized there wouldn't be too much happening until around Christmas," he said yesterday.

"You always have faith, you always have hope but it'll take the owners coming back to the table willing to negotiate instead of just hammering something down the players' throats.

"Then, maybe something can get accomplished. If not, it doesn't look too good."

That could mean a full winter in the city near the German border which, Reinprecht said, he's willing to do. Nor does he have any plans to bolt for a more lucrative league -- a la Jaromir Jagr.

"It's a great experience. It's just trying to get a different feel for hockey around the world," he said.

"I'm comfortable here. I committed myself here and don't want to pull the plug on them. The only way I'm leaving here is if the NHL season is started."

Which appears to be less and less likely with each coming day.

There have been no formal talks between commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA head Bob Goodenow since mid-September. No new talks are imminent.

Reinprecht is content to wait, like so many other players.

"One thing the players know is we're going to be as patient as it takes," said the forward, who was slated to make $1.9 million US this NHL season. In France, his expenses are covered and that's about it.

"If there's any frustration, it's the fact none of the owners are coming to the table.

"To negotiate, to get a deal done by negotiating, you have to have two sides giving and taking and right now the owners aren't doing that.

"They're trying to hammer something down our throat and that's not the way deals are constructed.

"We went to the table in September and gave a great offer, it would have generated over $100 million, closer to $200 million and they just laughed it off and threw it in the garbage, so they're not looking for anything else right now. They're really stuck on their one principal and it's not a fair way to try and get things done."

With six goals and three assists in five games -- the French league only has a 28-game season -- Reinprecht is recovering nicely from season-ending shoulder surgery.

The light schedule, in terms of games, has helped, too.

"It's a good transition. If we were to play (in the NHL) tomorrow, my shoulder would be fine. It feels great and has felt great for a month and a half," he said.

"More time is the merrier, though, so less games is a bonus. You do get banged around and it's good to know it's fine."

As for the hockey, he's found that to be something of a surprise.

"It's better than I thought it would be. There's quite a bit of skill and it's fast," he said.

"It's not as regarded as Switzerland or Sweden or Germany or the Czech Republic or Finland but give it some time and it'll develop some players."

There is another bonus for Reinprecht.

He and his new bride, Sarah, are spending plenty of time together and that's a good thing since she's fluent in French.

"It's a small, little town and as French as you can get but I'm taking French lessons and we're enjoying our time here.

"I have my own translator and teacher. Plus, I'm in safe hands here with her."


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