In seven years doing this job, I've looked out onto the Honda Center ice and seen Ducks skating out there hundreds of times. But I can't remember it being a more beautiful sight than it was this morning.
The start of training camp is still a few days away, but as they have been doing for the last several months, Ducks players skated informally together to prep for the eventual start of the season. With the Collective Bargaining Agreement having been ratified yesterday, they were able to do it at Honda Center for the first time since last spring. And while no hockey player looks forward to practice, they all seemed thrilled to be out there.
"It’s nice to be back," said Corey Perry while changing out of a red Ducks practice jersey. "It was an extended summer, that’s for sure. Everyone is excited to get back and get going again."
"It feels like old times again," said Ryan Getzlaf. "It’s definitely nice to be back here and it’s an exciting time for us. Being away from here sucks."
Getzlaf is one of those players who looked at the extended time off as bittersweet since it allowed him to spend time with his now two-year-old son and another baby born to him and wife Paige a couple of weeks ago.
"It was nice to be around for that," he said, "but I’m ready to get back to work."
Teemu Selanne had a similar sentiment: "There are kind of mixed feelings because I really enjoyed the time off. But the same hand, after awhile, it got old."
(Ah, how I've missed "same hand" for the past few months.)
"You're a hockey player and you want to play hockey," he continued. "You start missing the game more and more. The only way to handle it is to stay positive and optimistic and make sure when things start you’re ready. It was hard for everybody, but I’m so happy it’s over.
Selanne was inevitably asked if this is his last season, and he said he's approaching it just like he has the last several. "It's my last season, right?" he laughed. "Of course it is. Like always."
Selanne, who turned 42 last July, certainly can't complain about a 48-game season, but he says it changes the approach for all of the guys.
"Every game is going to be like playoff hockey, and every point is going to be critical to making the playoffs," he said. "If you look in the past years, how exciting it is in the last few games of the season, it’s that same challenge again. There is no room for error. The schedule doesn’t let you get down for too many games in a row. You can’t afford to do that.
"At the same time, a one-week training camp? I really like that."
That training camp will likely start Sunday, with the Ducks playing their first game on the road on the 19th, though nothing is official as of yet (soon though). Either way, no team has long to get ready for game time.
"Everyone is going to have that breaking-in period, because there is nothing that can compare to playing an actual game," Getzlaf said. "We’re going to do our best to be as ready as we can for that first game, and we’re looking forward to it.
"We’ve been skating and everything for four or five months, but this is probably the longest that anyone’s gone without playing a game in a long time. That part will be an adjustment. It’s an exciting time for us. We’ve got a few new bodies and we’ve got some things we’re going to have to work through, but everybody looks good out there."
Added Perry, "Everybody is really going to come together this year. It’s a good group of guys in here, a lot of different personalities that will really mesh well. There are some new faces with the old faces, but it’s going to be nice."
Perry said that even the car ride from his home in Newport Beach to Honda Center was enjoyable after all this time.
"Driving up here, getting back into the routine and skating with the guys, it reminds you of what you miss and why you play this game."
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