ADVERTISEMENT

Martin Biron is at home in Buffalo. He and his family recently moved back to the area. He still has a lot of friends on the Sabres, his first NHL team.

So the New York Rangers goaltender was completely comfortable skating with a large group of Sabres on Thursday in Northtown Center at Amherst.

Comfortable, but not content.

NHL training camps are supposed to open today, but the lockout will wipe out the annual gathering of teammates. The players are stuck skating wherever and whenever until the league and the NHL Players' Association can negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

"Obviously, you want to be in camp," Biron said. "I'd much rather be heading to City right now, but you've got to continue working on the process and continue working with the league to get a CBA worked all out. That's what we're concerned about now."

The delay in the opening of training camp is yet another sign hockey fans are in for a depressing work stoppage. The cancellation of physicals and on-ice testing comes two days after the NHL wiped out this month's preseason schedule.

"It's very unfortunate," Sabres forward Cody McCormick said. "Guys are looking forward to getting into competition. ... We want to go into Toronto and play them and have a battle and reminder of what it's like to be out there in front of that many fans cheering for you. We're missing that right now."

Nothing has changed in the labor dispute. The sides haven't held formal negotiations since Sept. 12 and don't have any scheduled. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and representatives of the NHLPA are in Edmonton for a meeting with the Alberta Labor Board. Members of the Oilers and Calgary Flames filed a motion to get the lockout declared illegal in their province. A similar move was temporarily denied last week in Quebec.

"Obviously, we'd like to see more meetings than not, so hopefully they can figure something out," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said while wearing an NHLPA baseball hat. "Every guy wants to play. The fact that we're in the position that we are right now, I don't think too many guys are happy about it."

The players in Buffalo continue to skate on their own. Biron joined 19 members of the Sabres' organization and unrestricted free agent Jochen Hecht for a shinny tournament.

The players are trying to keep their gatherings fun while waiting for real workouts to start. They have occasionally traded their hockey sticks for baseball gloves and used the diamonds on the Northtown Center grounds just for a change of pace.

"We're staying in shape," McCormick said. "We've been doing baseball and stuff like that, something that we probably wouldn't be doing at this time last year. It gets your mind away from the everyday workout skates that we've been doing since April."

The next step is to get their minds away from work stoppages and back onto hockey games.

"It's a process, and it's not going to end tomorrow, and it's not going to end the next day, but you keep working at it," Biron said. "We've all said when you grow up playing hockey you don't think about work stoppages. You think about playing hockey.

"I'm a huge fan of the game. I'm in the players' side and the business side, but I'm a huge fan of the game. As a fan, I want to see the action.

"But I want it to be right. I want it to be where it's going to continue for years and years and years and not be five years down the road and hit a roadblock again."





email: jvogl@buffnews.com