Young Oilers a biker gang

Oklahoma City Barons forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins retrieves the puck as teammate Jordan Eberle is...

Oklahoma City Barons forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins retrieves the puck as teammate Jordan Eberle is checked by Lake Erie Monsters defenceman Stefan Elliott at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 12, 2012. (DAVID MAXWELL/Getty Images/AFP)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:44 AM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY - Theyve become the Edmonton Oilers biker gang.

With the NHL lockout now guaranteed to go into at least December, the four guaranteed-to-start-the-season-in-Edmonton-if-it-ever-starts Edmonton Oilers havent bought houses here yet.

But they did buy bikes.

Cheap ones. Hey, theyre playing here on minor league salaries.

We went to Walmart, said Nugent-Hopkins.

We bought four bikes. They were $100 each.

There were ones for $500. But were hoping the lockout ends eventually. So we bought the cheap ones.

The place we have here is pretty close. Its about a 15-minute walk to the rink. But its a four-minute bike ride. So were bikers now. We go everywhere on them, he said of he and room-mate Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.

We ride em to restaurants. Everywhere. The only thing we dont do is ride em to games, he said of the four high-profile players who are mostly anonymous in OKC.

We thought about getting scooters, said Eberle. But I think its faster just to bike.

If the NHL lockout drags on to Christmas, dont concern yourself about Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Schultz.

Theyre not going through hell being minor leaguers waiting for Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr to get the deal done. Theyre not dragging their butts to the rink every day. Theyre riding their bikes. And theyre happy here.

We leave them now, after covering five straight games here, quite comfortable as members of the Oklahoma City Barons despite their anonymity here and the extra whacking and hacking Eberle, RNH and Schultz are at times taking from the other teams in the league.

Hall flew home to Edmonton Sunday not able to wait until he can get right back on the plane to return here and become an official minor leaguer like his mates.

Im even looking forward to going on the road and riding on the bus, playing cards and enjoying the camaraderie, said Hall, who flew home to Edmonton yesterday to be examined by Oilers doctors with the idea of returning to play games here next weekend.

Maybe Ill regret saying that, but I think it will be fun to be back on the bus again.

Ive been having a lot of fun being down here. Ive wanted to play pro hockey since I was a little kid. This isnt the NHL but its a lot better league than a lot of people may think.

Id rather be in the NHL. But so far here, I think you can see, were really enjoying it. Its a lot different than Edmonton with the way it is for hockey there, but its been a good experience so far, said Hall.

There arent the same perks as the NHL, but its nice to be part of a team, a good team, said Eberle, who along with Nugent-Hopkins your correspondent has covered playing two games in Switzerland, eight in Finland and now five here since you last watched them play in Edmonton.

The travel is pretty easy. Playing in the WHL was way worse from a travel point of view, Eberle added.

He says its strange to be a young NHL player who, back in Canada, everybody knows his name, and yet here next to nobody knows it.

In five games here, the Barons have announced crowds of 6,323 2,897, 2,143, 2,995 and 2,501.

Thats 16,859 or just 20 more than the Rexall Place capacity of 16,839.

I love Edmonton and everyone who plays there appreciates the passion and obviously thats a good thing. But sometimes its nice to be able to go out and nobody recognizes you. Theres nothing like playing in a Canadian city, but for a few months here, this is a contrast that we can enjoy. Im sure well be ready to go back to that passion, the excitement and that scene but in the meantime, this has been OK, he said of OKC.

Its been good so far, said Nugent-Hopkins.

Its been a little different, but Im still happy to be down here and playing. The best part is that these are gonna be players, a lot of the guys, who were going to be playing with in Edmonton.

Its been good to get to know them and bond with them.

One of them is his new room-mate here and for whenever hockey gets going again in the NHL, defenceman Justin Schultz who scored two more goals here yesterday to bring his total to an AHL leading six goals and six assists for 12 points seven games into the season.

Its great down here. All we do is play hockey. As long as the lockout goes Im happy to be here. I just want to make the most of my time in the AHL and have fun.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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