Word of the end of the NHL lockout traveled fast for the Washington Capitals. Players' Association representative Jason Chimera was the first to find out the news
"I think I woke the whole house up with my excitement," Chimera said.
Chimera and his kids celebrated with a dance party, and 5-year-old son Cale asked, "Who unlocked the doors?" That would be commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, who announced a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement after 6 a.m. Sunday.
Before that, even, Caps players heard from Chimera, making their mornings.
"I woke up to a text from Chimmer saying, 'Break out the champagne,'" right wing Troy Brouwer said. "It was a nice little wake-up call, that's for sure, because it's been a bunch of tough mornings, a bunch of late nights hoping. Then for it to finally hopefully be resolved, it's pretty relieving."
The message to Minnesota native Matt Hendricks was to pack his bags. That's because training camp starts this week.
There's not much time for Caps players and others around the NHL to get ready. Hendricks is flying back to the D.C. area Monday night, while a Swedish report indicated Nicklas Backstrom was boarding a plane from Russia on Sunday. Karl Alzner spent most of the day planning his trip back. Alex Ovechkin will be back in Washington early this week, his IMG representative, David Arbutyn said.
And while Brouwer expressed some concern about everyone not getting ahead of themselves until the CBA was ratified and official, he's getting back to Washington soon.
"I'm going to start packing up. I know we have a couple days. In that time I'm sure the ratification will get done," Brouwer said. "But until then, I'm doing everything I would normally do to prepare to come back to Washington. By the time it gets ratified, I'm sure I'll be all packed up and ready to go."
Training camp is expected to begin before the weekend. It will either be a 48- or 50-game season, but camp will be shortened, likely to a week.
That means guys getting ramped up from what Brouwer called "base shape" to game shape very quickly.
"I think everybody's been pretty up-tempo through these last three or four months. I don't think it's going to take a whole lot," Hendricks said. "I think guys are probably in shape and ready to go. I know here in Minnesota we've been working hard four or five times a week. We're doing as much as we can without burning ourselves out in the process."
Some kept in shape by playing games, like Ovechkin in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League and Brooks Laich in Switzerland's National League A. Others, like defensemen John Carlson and Mike Green, stayed local to work out and skate with the likes of Chimera and Rangers forward Jeff Halpern.
"We've been working pretty good. Halpy is kind of a little drill sergeant there. He's been working us pretty hard," Chimera said. "And we got a trainer we work with quite a bit too, the Gold's Gym there. It's been pretty good. Speaking for us, we've been keeping pretty good shape."
How players' bodies respond to the grueling camp Brouwer expects from coach Adam Oates and the unknown that comes with a compressed schedule, though, are concerns for another day. Sunday was about celebration.
Green wrote on Twitter that this was the best day of his life. Carlson said in a text message, "I'm pretty freakin pumped up."
A shortened season makes for a sense of urgency, forcing teams to get out of the gate fast to avoid falling behind. That sprint to the playoffs should start late next week.
For now, there's a sense of relief that the NHL is back.
"I have no idea how they redid the schedule, remade it," Brouwer said. "Right now, all I'm worried about is getting to Washington, having the deal signed and getting back on the ice and doing what we love."
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.