AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Tuesday 15 January 2013
Last update 14 January 2013 11:20 pm
LOS ANGELES: NHL training camps opened Sunday, drawing large crowds of fans in some cities and revealing the changes underway as the 30 teams prepare for the start of the lockout-shortened season on Saturday.
The reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings began their quest to repeat by walking past a replica of the Stanley Cup as they headed to the ice at Staples Center arena.
Just moments before the first practice the players learned that teammate Kevin Westgarth had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes.
“We lived together in Manchester (when on the Kings’ farm team),” said Stanley Cup finals Most Valuable Player Jonathan Quick, who had off-season back surgery. “He is a close friend. I wish him the best.” Forward Dustin Penner said getting back on the ice with his teammates made him feel like his old self again.
“It is nice to have a routine and a bit of meaning to our lives now,” Penner said. “It is right back to work.” The Kings will raise their first Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters of Staple Center when they open the season Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It is going to be exciting for the team and a great honor for the city,” said Kings’ player Jordan Nolan.
The Kings are hoping to finish the season as the NHL’s first repeat champions since the Detroit Red Wings captured back-to-back titles 1998 and 1997.
Most teams practised Sunday morning for the first time including the St. Louis Blues who worked out in front of 5,700 fans.
“You never know how many people are going to react coming out of this but we were pretty sure our fans were going to be there for us,” Blues forward Jamie Langenbrunner said.
The four-month old lockout ended Saturday after the owners and players signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the major issues agreed for their new collective bargaining agreement.
The deal salvaged a shortened season of 48 games per team.
Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty said it won’t be easy but at least everyone is in the same boat.
“You don’t know what to expect,” Doughty said. “This is such a different schedule than what we are used to.” Doughty said they may not all be in as good a shape they were at the start of training camp last season, but everybody will at least be mentally prepared to win games.
“We are so excited to get the season started,” he said. “We have such a short period of time to get ready we are sticking to basics and paying attention to detail.
“Making sure we make those tape-to-tape passes and getting our systems in our heads. We are not trying to kill ourselves (physically), but mentally we have to get back in that zone.” Notable players that changed teams in the extended off season include Rick Nash from Columbus to the New York Rangers, Jaromir Jagr from Philadelphia to Dallas and Zach Parise from New Jersey to Minnesota.
Teemu Selanne returned to the Anaheim Ducks for likely his final NHL season and Detroit lost franchise kingpins Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom to retirement.
The shortened 2012-13 season begins with 26 of the league’s 30 teams playing the first night.
The season ends with 13 games on April 27 and the Stanley Cup playoffs will begin three days later.