Sports Hockey

Local player shares thoughts on lockout

By Jeff Gard, Northumberland Today

Shane O’Brien, left, in action for the Colorado Avalanche against the Senators last season.

ERROL McGIHON QMI Agency Shane O’Brien, left, in action for the Colorado Avalanche against the Senators last season.


Port Hope native Shane O’Brien is experiencing his first National Hockey League lockout.

O’Brien was playing professional hockey in 2004/2005 — when a full NHL season was washed away — but he was with Cincinnati of the American Hockey League as a prospect of the Anaheim Ducks at the time.

“Being a young kid I didn’t really care about the lockout because I was in the American league and there were a lot of good players that would have been in the NHL, but came down and made the (AHL) a better league,” O’Brien said over the phone from Newport Beach, California on Tuesday.

“It’s my first taste of this. It’s a crappy feeling to realize that it’s a just a big business. When they take the game that you love to play away from you, you realize you’re just a number in this big puzzle that they’re trying to figure out. It’s sort of a humbling feeling and kind of a scary one at the same time.”

O’Brien, coming off a one-year deal, re-signed with the Colorado Avalanche earlier this summer for an additional three years. The 29-year-old, who has played 455 regular season games and 40 playoff games has also spent time with Anaheim, Tampa Bay, Vancouver and Nashville.

Having played in some of them, O’Brien knows the effect the lockout could have on some of the non-traditional hockey markets.

“All summer long we were hoping that this wouldn’t happen. Seven years ago we lost a whole season and it seems like we’re back, hopefully not, in the same predicament, but it’s not looking very good,” he said. “Hopefully they can start talking again and get it moving quickly. As players, it sucks but most importantly we just feel bad for the fans because our game has grown so much in the last seven years. The fans, obviously in Canada they’ll always be there, but down here in the States, especially in the southern states, hockey has grown so much. We just hope that it can get resolved, not just for us but for the fans especially.”

People are talking hockey a lot in California now, especially after watching the Kings win the Stanley Cup last season, O’Brien said. He’s hoping that momentum will continue.

“Unfortunately it’s a bad situation. Labour disputes are never fun, but as players we just want to play for something that we feel is fair,” O’Brien said. “A couple proposals we’ve made, we’re willing to give up a little bit more to help the league and for whatever reason the owners are settled on what they think. Right now it’s a very unfortunate situation. As a player it sucks because you miss being around the guys, you miss playing and right now is usually the time of year when you’re getting geared up to start the season.”

His plans are to just keep skating and working out.

“Right now we’re all being very optimistic and hoping that it gets done sooner than later, but as for now I’m just skating down here with a few of the guys that spend their off-season down here,” O’Brien said. “We’re just trying to keep ourselves in shape and just to be ready in case something does happen.”

Messages left for Cobourg native Justin Williams of the Los Angeles Kings were not returned by press time Wednesday.

Williams has played in 707 NHL regular season games and 71 playoff contests with the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and the Kings. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner; with the Kings this past season and the Hurricanes in 2006.

During the 2004/2005 lockout, Williams played for Lulea of the Swedish Elite League. A lot has changed since then, though, as Williams now has a wife and two children.

Williams spent his day with the Stanley Cup this summer with family at his off-season home in Ventnor, New Jersey.

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