The NHL remains mired in a lockout, Day 60 coming on Wednesday. But for the AHL, the hockey world keeps on spinning. And for those Rockford players who wouldve been with the Blackhawks at some point this season, hockey and their lives are going on just fine.
Talks have gone quiet once again in the big league. And after things looked so promising early last week, when the league and NHLPA were talking nonstop, the outlook for NHL hockey is looking grim again. But for the IceHogs, as with the rest of the minor-league hockey organizations, games continue. Practices continue. Regular-season routine continues.
Hockey continues. And for them, its not so much about listening to lockout rhetoric and speculation as much as it is focusing on their jobs.
It has to be (the focus), IceHogs forward Brandon Bollig said. You cant take anything away from this league. Its very talented, especially right now. And if you dont have your mind on the game youll be behind the 8-ball. Its unfortunate (about the lockout). But theres no room to focus on whats going on there. Im lucky, along with a few other guys, to be playing right now instead of sitting around and doing nothing.
Guys like Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith and Brandon Saad lost the chance to compete for a Blackhawks roster spot this season at least for now. But in the hockey world, theres always a competition for something.
In this lifestyle, youre always fighting, always competing for something. Even here in Rockford youre competing for power play, penalty kill and ice time, Smith said. Being a hockey player, no matter where you are you have to bring your best. If not, someones trying to pass you. We want to be (in the NHL), thats the goal. But have to bring compete and passion every day here.
Not only are guys enjoying their usual hockey routine, but theyre getting that welcome distraction from lockout talk which theyre starting to avoid.
Well have a group chat going, and me and a few guys will read about it and stay informed. But thats mainly it for me, said defenseman Nick Leddy. Its good to focus on a season down here and develop.
And, when the NHL season does resume, some of the potential Blackhawks can hit the training-camp ground running.
Thats the good thing. We can stay sharp and fine tune some things that got you to the NHL, Bollig said. Were fortunate to be so close. If it starts up, and were lucky enough to be called up, were there and ready.
So while the NHL stays quiet, the AHL keeps playing. For these guys, the welcome routine of practices and games continues.
Were hoping something gets done and its something fair, Smith said of a potential collective bargaining agreement. At the same time were working on our games and hoping when the time comes, were all playing good hockey.