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The National Hockey League lockout is over and after a week of training camp the new season will open. I checked around to see how NHL players felt the shortened season would affect their play.

  • The one thing that sticks out in my mind about having success in a 48-game season is getting off to a good start,” [Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan] Keith said. “That goes back to making sure we’re ready to play that first game. That’s going to start in practice and training camp right away. It’s looking for perfection at practice and bringing it over to a game.”
  • Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd says a good start is more important than ever with a lockout-shortened NHL season on the horizon. “Our start’s going to have to be key, for everyone in the league,” he said after an unofficial practice Tuesday with a few other players.
  • “As far as implementing [new Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle’s]new system, he’s going to expect the best from us right from the get-go, so I think there’ll be a little more accountability from the start,” [forward David Steckel] added. “Especially with a 48-game season, you don’t have any room for errors.
  • Getting off to a good start’s pretty important,” [Minnesota Wild forward Zach] Parise said. “You don’t have the dog days of the season. It’s basically half a season and go. It’s a sprint to the playoffs. So you want to make sure the games at the beginning of the season are just as, if not more, important than the ones at the end.”
  • “Every year, the start’s important,” [Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan] Keith said. “Now that it’s a short season, it’s going to be even that much more important to get off to a good start and make sure we’re on the same page right away.”

But Darryl Sutter, coach of the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, counters:

Everybody’s talking about the importance of a good start, but the one thing that I take out of the 48-game schedule [in the strike-shortened 1994-95 season] you needed lots of players. I bet if you look back at Chicago that year we probably used 16 or 17 forwards.

Chicago used 21 forwards that year.

Terry Crisp, coach of the Tampa Bay Lightening during the 1994-95 season, says it’ll all come down to groin injuries:

My biggest worry was the groins, because once you pull a groin, you knew what you would have to do next. The only thing good for a groin is rest and you don’t have time to rest in a 48-game schedule. You didn’t have a privilege of that.

There you have it. NHL players must keep their groins loose and start fast. And prepare for injury.

But what about the reason for the shortened season–the lockout? What was the deal with that?

“The best thing to do is acknowledge that it was stupid . . . [a] useless waste of time,” [Buffalo Sabre goaltender Ryan] Miller said yesterday.

Update: Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks sure talked a good game about getting off to a good start–and his Blackhawks backed it up by going the first 24 games of the season without suffering a regulation loss, setting a new NHL record.

Derek Bridges lives in New Orleans, trading in words and pictures. A carpetbagger of long standing, he grew up in the top right corner of IL and later went to college in the middle cornfield part. He has also lived in MS and FL, for educational purposes only, and was diasporized for a time in TX.

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