CALGARY - As the whole hockey world has heard by now, the Calgary Flames won't be teeing it up Thursday in their annual charity golf tournament.
What's a bigger concern to the players is that they might not be lacing 'em up anytime soon, either.
While the organization scrambles to find alumni members and other big-name fill-ins for the Calgary Flames Celebrity Charity Golf Classic, the players are sticking to their guns and won't be showing up at Country Hills Golf Club or Links of GlenEagles, with some instead headed to New York for NHLPA meetings.
“I think the tournament can go on and they can raise money and do a good thing that way, and that's great,” said Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who skated Tuesday morning at Westside Recreation Complex and will travel Wednesday to New York for the two-day union get-together that conflicts with the golf event.
“But there's this other whole side of things. Everyone wants to get some details and just get some information, hear it first-hand from guys that have been there at the negotiations and know what's happening.
“That's my view right now, and that's No. 1 in my books. I want to play hockey and go find out what's going on.”
Although team president Ken King issued a statement Monday saying the organization is “disappointed but completely understand the uniqueness of the situation,” the Flames players have been widely criticized for their group decision to skip the fundraising golf tournament.
A pre-season staple since 1981, the Flames Celebrity Charity Golf Classic has raised more than $4.3 million for the Flames Foundation for Life.
In several other cities, players have participated in golf tournaments this week. Despite a conflict with the NHLPA meetings, the Vancouver Canucks are expecting some skaters to show up for Wednesday's event.
Flames centre Matt Stajan, who doubles as the team union representative, has been unavailable for comment on the golf tournament and it's unknown how many of his teammates will attend the meetings in New York.
“The ultimate thing is going back to work — that's first and foremost,” said Flames forward Curtis Glencross, who won't be headed to the Big Apple.
“Definitely, it's a good time to go to that golf tournament every year and it's for a good cause and it's good to interact with the sponsors and the fans. It's disappointing we're not going to it. But at the same time, we have a bigger thing on our plate right now.”
Flames forward Roman Horak confirmed Tuesday he's also not planning to fly to New York, but the 21-year-old won't be on the links, either.
“Something has been said, and I'm just going to follow the guys here,” Horak said. “If they're not going to attend or try to go there, I'm not going there, either.”
Flames netminder Henrik Karlsson, defenceman Anton Babchuk and forward Mikael Backlund also skated Tuesday morning at Westside Recreation Complex.
Others on the ice included former Flames forward Brendan Morrison, who finished last season with the Chicago Blackhawks and is now a free agent, and Washington Capitals blueliner Jeff Schultz.
While pre-season skates are common, they could last a lot longer than usual. The current collective bargaining agreement expires Saturday, and a lockout seems almost certain.
“I don't think anyone is optimistic. The reality is you'd hope that they could find some common ground and get something done pretty quick,” Bouwmeester said. “But the way things have been going, that doesn't look like it's the case. Hopefully, they'll get together and have a last little push before the deadline.”