It seems like forever since we’ve seen the toothless smiles and the sweaty locker room interviews. On Monday the Lightning held the first informal practice at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum and head coach Guy Boucher held a press conference at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Team owner Jeff Vinik also released a statement to the media.
Nothing Keeps Boucher Down
Throughout the lockout, Coach Boucher stayed positive as he always does. He said that he knew that the CBA situation would be resolved within the year, and that he stuck with that. Though we are not sure of how many days training camp will be, he’s prepared for it on a number of day scenarios. He feels that despite playing over seas or in the minors, none of the players will be ready to step on the ice at an NHL level. They play differently in the other leagues, and/or the players will have a different role with the Lightning. When asked about how many will be invited to training camp, the comment was made that there isn’t a lot of room on the roster for new guys, to which Boucher replied that there’s “Always openings for better players”. He ended with acknowledging how great Mr. Vinik has been throughout the months.
Players are thankful to the back on the ice, apologetic to the fans
To the fans he says thanks for holding on and sorry to those that were hurt. “We’ll try to make it up to you.” He thinks that it will take about five games to get back in the groove, then slowly but surely.
Ryan Malone sees that there is no room for error. With each loss, you bounce back, he told the media. He said that training camp won’t be a lot of drills this year, but scrimmages to ready them for game situations. Unlike his teammates who varied around a month with their response when asked “How long do you think it’ll take you to get to where you’re comfortable?” Malone was quick to answer “Today! Today I’m back to work.”
Martin St. Louis
Marty has been a staple through the union and league talks, now he’s back to doing what he does best in Tampa.
“I’m glad that we’re back to work. I’m sorry for the fans. Obviously they’ve had to go through this with us and we’re excited to be back on the ice and entertain them. Obviously we understand their pain and we felt the same way. So we’re excited to get back to work, that’s for sure.”
When asked about being ready, St. Louis said that he sees the beginning of the season being sloppy. He ended the interview with “I’m glad to be back on the ice. That’s where we belong.” (I couldn’t agree with you more, Marty.)
“It’s great. It’s definitely been a very long winter, but I’m happy it’s over and we can finally move on and get back to what we do, and the fans can get back to watching games. Everybody else around, workers at the arenas, the restaurants, the whole city of Tampa and around the league.” To the fans he said: “It’s a tough situation for everybody. Everybody loses in this. The fans, the players, the owners. It’s a frustrating three, four months, but it’s also a process that you hope is going to take a week, but obviously it didn’t. It took a lot longer, but it’s still a process. It obviously extended to a lot longer than we wanted. But like I said, let’s move on here. I know people in Tampa, just from yesterday, people were excited about the upcoming season and about the team, so we’re excited about them.”
So far he’s the only one that I’ve seen address the issue of the local business and arena workers. In all of the interviews on Monday, Vinny seemed, to me, the most level headed.
Team owner Jeff Vinik released the following statement:
“On behalf of the entire Lightning organization I would like to express our excitement to get back on the ice and, more importantly, welcome the fans back to the Tampa Bay Times Forum for our landmark 20th NHL season,” Vinik said. “We are glad to be back and would like to thank all our fans for their unwavering patience during what has admittedly been a long and difficult few months. With a world-class arena, and an improved team on the ice we are looking forward to what should be an exciting season as our team battles for a coveted position in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.”