Players hit the ice to skate and wait

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2012 - 11:14 AM

Locked-out Wild members began their new routine.

It didn't take long for Zach Parise to realize he was a locked-out player Monday. The out-of-work Wild forward had to rush home because he forgot his skates.

Because he is not permitted to take advantage of team services like those of Wild equipment manager Tony DaCosta or team facilities like Xcel Energy Center during the NHL lockout, Parise took his skates home to sharpen over the weekend.

Monday morning, Parise arrived back at a St. Louis Park ice rink to skate with 40 of his fellow locked-out colleagues.

"I saw [locked-out Wild winger] Devin Setoguchi in the parking lot and he goes, 'Hey, what kind of skates do you wear?' " Parise said. "I was like, 'Son of a gun.' "

If there is a good thing about being locked out in Minnesota, it's the fact that several NHLers are based here.

So Monday, and for the foreseeable future, nearly 20 Wild players, including Mikko Koivu, Niklas Backstrom, Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon and newcomer Torrey Mitchell, strapped on the skates with NHLers such as Dustin Byfuglien, Paul Martin, Keith Ballard, Alex Goligoski and Kyle Okposo.

What's it like being a locked-out NHLer?

"Bizarre. It's pretty brutal," Wild center Kyle Brodziak said. "Usually around this time you're starting to crank it up for the season and you get that feeling of playing competitive hockey again.

"Right now, you just keep training and skating every day. You keep doing that until you get bored of it, I guess, and then find somewhere new to go do the same thing."

Ticket details, and paycuts

Over at Wild headquarters, the team officially postponed single-game ticket sales, which were supposed to start Saturday -- the same day players were supposed to open training camp.

Season-ticket holders were informed Monday about what options they have for their tickets.

They can either receive refunds after games are canceled or keep their money in their accounts in return for 10 percent APR interest for each day that games remain canceled or postponed.

That's a higher incentive than every team in the NHL. Most have offered options ranging from no interest to 5 percent.

It also was announced to a 200-person staff that there will be no layoffs "at this time" and that executives and higher-compensated employees on the business side and coaches and management on the hockey operations side will receive paycuts.

The salary reductions affect any Wild employee making more than $70,000 a year, and would be a 30 or 35 percent (depending on salary) reduction of the overage over $70,000, according to multiple sources.

"The vast majority of Wild employees are completely unaffected," Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka said. "We wanted to have the impact be least for those who could least afford it."

Majka said layoffs could be revisited "if something catastrophic happened, like a loss of a season. ... I'm going to take the hopeful position that we will have a settlement relatively soon, and I'm still hopeful we can play a full season."

So are the players in St. Louis Park.

On Monday, skating instructor Troy Stevens ran drills and agents Ben Hankinson and Chris McAlpine ran the scrimmage. Starting Tuesday, referees will be hired for the scrimmages.

Setoguchi, whose training was hindered last summer when he was hit by a car in July, has arrived in Minnesota in tip-top shape. The goal scorer is looking forward to rebounding from a 19-goal season.

"You just have to make sure you don't slip, just make sure you keep putting in the work," Setoguchi said.

The problem, Backstrom said, is players "don't know how long this will last. It could be a month, two months, a year, two years, who knows?"

Added Gilbert, "That's the mental challenge of it. How do you approach your preparing for the season? You've got to take a couple steps back from working out, your skating's got to be a little different. We're all ready for training camp. But now, what do you do?"

The overseas option

Some NHLers have begun signing overseas. Rick Nash, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture reportedly are going to Switzerland, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk to Russia, Tomas Plekanec and Jaromir Jagr to the Czech Republic, Christian Ehrhoff to Germany and Jussi Jokinen to Finland.

Backstrom, who wore his Wild jersey inside-out, has options in Europe and could make that decision in a matter of days. He owns a piece of IFK in Helsinki and played for Karpat Oulu, although he has options in other countries, too.

Koivu could play for the team he partly owns, TPS in Turku, Finland, but he'll investigate that more in the next couple of days because there are astronomical tax and insurance implications for NHLers returning home.

"I'll probably just stay [in Minnesota] for a bit," Koivu said. "We have a good group here."

In the meantime, Koivu played on a line Monday with Parise, who is supposed to be his Wild linemate whenever the lockout ends.

"I think we won the game, too, so it's a good start," Koivu joked.

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