Sept. 28, 2004
©The Arizona Republic
NASH, OTHERS PAY TO STAY FIT
Not too long ago, members of the Coyotes were getting paid six- or seven-figure salaries to lace up their skates, score goals and stop pucks.
Now, with progress in the NHL player lockout plodding along slower than a Zamboni with four flat tires, some have resorted to coughing up 20 bucks per man for the chance to play the game they've built their lives around for an hour.
"As Mickey Mouse as it looks, at least we're getting out there," said left wing Tyson Nash, who has been chipping in along with other Valley-based pros to rent time at a local rink three or four times a week. "And it's fun to be around the boys. That's what I miss the most."
The lockout, which began when the collective bargaining agreement between the league's 30 owners and the 700-plus members of the NHL Players Association expired on Sept. 15, won't be resolved any time soon considering no negotiations are planned.
Teams that should be playing preseason games this week aren't, and more and more regular-season games are starting to be crossed off the schedules.
"It makes me sad," Nash said. "I've dreamed of this my whole life and want my career to go on as long as it can. Unfortunately, this is the nature of the game. We've seen other sports go through it. Now it's hockey's turn again."
The turnout, Nash said, was smaller than usual.
"The incentive level is getting a little lower right now knowing that there's no talks scheduled," he said. "It's frustrating."
Johnson, who joined the Coyotes in February via trade and moved to the Valley from Missouri last month, is disturbed by the uncertainty.
"It's scary," he said. "But I don't want to be sitting here all year and not doing anything."
About half of the players on the Coyotes roster have taken the self-train, wait-and-see approach to the lockout, which many in the hockey community predict will last until at least January.
The other half are being paid to play hockey in the minors, their homelands or in makeshift exhibition leagues in Canada.
Coach Rick Bowness said whichever lockout activity the players choose, it's crucial that they stay in shape because post-lockout training camps would be abbreviated.
"We are counting on our players to be professional, and that when this all comes together they'll be in tip-top shape and ready to go," Bowness said. "If they show up out of shape, there won't be time to get into shape."