NHL lockout 2012: Players miss routine of season

Time with family is nice, but they want back on ice

Troy Brouwer and his wife, Carmen, knew their first child was on the way, due in mid-October. Kylie Marie was born Oct. 14, about a month into the NHL lockout.

Naturally, the Washington Capitals right wing wondered about what could have been if the season were going on as scheduled.

“We would’ve been in Ottawa the night before, and then two days later we were leaving for a five-day road trip,” Brouwer said. “So it’s actually kind of nice that I’m able to be home, be there for Carmen and for Kylie.”

Spending important time with family is a lockout silver lining for Brouwer and other players. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept the new normal of not having the routine of the NHL season.

“I’d rather have the regular routine of going to the rink in the morning, practicing and playing games. Right now, it’s still kind of hit or miss,” Brouwer said Friday at the Champs for Charity exhibition game outside Chicago. “Some days you don’t really feel like going to the gym, but you have to because you have to keep yourself in shape. The routine is kind of a little bit more loose. You can kind of go to the gym when you want, you skate when you want. You do as much or as little as you want. Sometimes to have that nice structure, routine and schedule is nice just to follow along.”

Right now, Brouwer’s routine includes cleaning up diapers and helping out his wife. Ex-Caps defenseman Joe Corvo, now with the Carolina Hurricanes, is in the same situation.

“Mostly kid duty lately,” Corvo said. “I’ve got a lot more time on my hands, so I’m running errands for my wife. I’m my wife’s personal assistant.”

There are some benefits to that lifestyle and skating in Raleigh, N.C., on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Corvo gets to watch sons Connor and Maddox play hockey and baseball and help out on occasion.

“That makes it special for me because I’ve seen guys who probably their only regrets over their career is that they didn’t get to really see their children grow up and they missed those sporting events,” Corvo said. “It’s nice to be able to do that. I’ll have something I remember, and hopefully in the near future that’s what I’ll be doing.”

But for now, Corvo wants to think of himself as an NHL defenseman, even recognizing that at 35 his time to make a living as a pro hockey player is limited. That makes this routine as a stay-at-home dad more difficult.

“I’m a creature of habit. I like structure. I like somebody telling me where to be, when to be there,” he said. “And I like having a job. It’d be nice to get back to work.”

Players have remained strong to their principles in these negotiations, but that doesn’t mean Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton wouldn’t love to be playing, too. Trying to stay in shape during the lockout has its challenges.

“For the last month and a half we’ve been skating at [Boston University]. There’s a ton of us from Boston skating with no goalies, shooting at posts. It kind of gets pretty old,” Thornton said. “So two weeks ago, I went back to my hometown to skate with my junior team just so I could see a goalie in front of me.”

Tuukka Rask was the practice goalie before getting a job in the Czech Republic. Likewise Michal Neuvirth for Caps players skating locally before leaving for Europe.

As too many have discovered, it’s just another hurdle during the lockout.

“I probably didn’t think that far ahead, but that would be one of the issues,” Thornton said. “I knew I’d get bored, and it [stinks] skating with nine or 10 guys.”

From two lockers over, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen chirped: “We’ve got three guys.” It’s not hard everywhere to find players to skate with, like in Calgary where Caps defenseman Karl Alzner is. Informal workouts, though, are a poor substitute for real games.

And this lockout life is a poor substitute for real routine. But players still find the motivation to work out because that’s what they’re programmed to do.

“Whether or not you’re getting paid right now, it’s still your job,” Brouwer said. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re in peak shape and make sure that you’re ready to go.”

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