I spoke to Mike Knuble on the phone from his home in Michigan on Monday evening. You can read the story about his and other NHL players’ preparations for a season that likely won’t start on time on WashingtonTimes.com/sports later Wednesday. Here’s the full transcript of what Knuble had to say:
Q: How is impending lockout affecting you?
Knuble: “It’s strange because guys were already making plans. In the last one in ‘04 guys were making plans to go to Europe. I remember last time working pretty hard to square up a deal with a team in Sweden and get ready to head over there. Right now, everybody seems to be sitting pat and waiting around. It’s been kind of gradual. It’s kind of snuck up on everybody. It kind of snuck up on everybody and crept up slowly, but all of a sudden here we are, end of August and everybody’s seeing a deal is going to be hard to come by here [before Sept. 15]. We’ll see what happens, but I think as far as players we’ve been going to meetings on behalf of our union. I don’t know; I guess different guys are going to be on their own to decide if they show up in their home city or they’re going to wait it out or whatever. I guess doors will be open till the 15th and then they’ll be locked again, I guess.”
Q: How involved are you in NHLPA dealings?
“I attended the meetings in Chicago a couple weeks ago. I actually went to meetings; they’ve been in Kelowna, British Columbia, and they’ve been to Toronto. I’ve been paying attention to it in the media what’s going on. I think there’s a group of players that played in the league last year that are still unsigned; there’s probably a dozen guys, my best guess. I think we’re all kind of waiting for a yes or a no or a maybe. It’s going to be a bunch of us that won’t be dealt with till labor issues are decided and then I guess we get to hear our fate whether it’s a yes or a no or come in for a tryout or something.”
Q: Harder to wait because of uncertainty?
“Yeah, it does. I think in the beginning you’re day-to-day, waiting by the phone, waiting for something to go on. And then it just kind of slowly slows down. I think when Gary announced that there wasn’t going to be a season starting until there was a new CBA finalized, well, that pretty well put a freeze on free agency. So I think everybody saw that coming and everybody understands that’s the deal. You’ve just got to kind of let one thing happen first before the other chips may fall. Let the other one get decided and then everyone else will take care of itself after that. But as far as a timeframe, players are in limbo. Some guys will show up, for example, in Washington, probably this week or after labor day, and I guess you hang around for 10 days and see what happens. As players they got to prepare, though. You’ve got to be prepared. Maybe a deal could get done at the eleventh hour and then everything’s a go and you don’t want to be left standing there waiting around.”
Q: Are you skating?
“I don’t because we don’t report to the city until after this weekend, and then we’d still have two, two-and-a-half weeks to skate, so I just wait until I reported in the city I was playing in, like Washington. But after this holiday though, we have a busy week here traveling around, after this holiday when my kids get back in school I’ll be much more curious about searching out ice and figuring out what I’m going to do. But it’s out of your ordinary routine, so you’ve got to think about it and you’ve got to kind of juggle things on the fly.”
Q: Concerned about career ending if there’s no season like in ‘04-05?
“That’s reality. There’s no hiding from that. There were a number of guys that played through the ‘03-04 season and then never came back from the lockout. That’s definitely a reality. Do I think that the season will be canceled again? I think that’s very highly unlikely. I think that was something, I’m hoping, that would never happen again, two times within a decade. That would be just absolutely crazy. But as a player, there’s casualties all the time. The lockout I remember there were a lot of guys that became casualties and that was kind of the way it was. The longer it goes it’s probably worse off for the older guys, the longer it goes. If we miss a whole year, that’s pretty much a killer right here.”
Q: Is there a good side (for older players) if it’s a shortened season?
“Hard to say, hard to say. I know what you’re saying though because there are less games and you think less games are better for an older player, you don’t feel as tired toward the end. But at the same time, it games are going to be compressed. The games will be right on top of each other, there will be less days off, less days between games. It’ll be hard to say till you’re going through it. Who knows? I haven’t thought about it that way. The shorter season, it’ll be interesting. But the longer everybody’s off, guys are trying to round out into really peak shape and it’s really hard to maintain that without being on the ice with NHL players every day. It’s really hard to scrape up the amount of guys and the situations to keep you sharp. The longer it goes, I guess the product might not be as great right out of the gate.”
Q: What’s the dream scenario for you?
“I guess you start off and you’ve got to get at least one deal to make a decision, right? You need one to tango. Geographically, I’m pretty well based in Michigan now, that would be a great situation, probably, something around there. If I have my picks it’d be probably something in the region. But at the same time, when you’re looking for a deal, you’re not going to be too picky at times. I think you have to decide when it comes what you’re going to do. When this does get settled, things are going to happen very quickly. As you see it building and it’s starting to look like it’s settling, I think you’ve really got to be prepared and do your best to be prepared to probably move pretty quickly because there will be teams snapping up [players] once they know the new deal and see if anything has changed in the structure or how much money you can spend or how a team needs to be made up. There are going to be a lot of calls flying out really fast for guys to fill in spots. I think when it does get settled you’ll have to make some decisions very quickly.”
Q: Harder for you with kids potentially staying in Michigan? Is that a factor?
“It would be. It’s a fact of life as an older player that things come into play and you’ve got to weigh your options and all that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, to be honest, because it keeps you busy and keeps you from dwelling on the situation. You stay pretty busy doing other things. When it does come down to a deal, there are a lot of other factors that could come into play because it’s not just you. You’ve got other people in your life and other things going on. You’ve got to weigh all those decisions. As much as you think you might be prepared or try to predict what would happen, it’s a lot different when it’s right there and a deal’s in front of your face and you hopefully have different options. It’s different when it’s right there in front of you and you’ve got to make a decision that determines how you are the next little bit of your life. It is what it is and I guess ultimately the decision’s yours whatever you want to do with it.”