MEDFORD, N.J. - Two months into the lockout and this small group of Flyers is still skating - in circles.
Nothing has changed since mid-September. Keith Primeau, Sami Kapanen and Marcus Ragnarsson - along with ex-Flyers
Chris Therien, Eric Weinrich and Chris McAllister - take to the ice once or twice a week.
It's as much a social get-together as it is a workout. If you try to take the temperature of the mood among
these guys, it's decidedly cooler than the chilly rink itself.
The clock ticks toward Armageddon and there's not much the players can do or say except express their resolution
Whatever cracks that might have been appearing in the union's stance were patched up during last week's information
session with players association chief Bob Goodenow in Toronto.
"Come back this time next year!'' Therien shouted across the locker room at a reporter. "We'll still be here
Primeau said he expects the players association will make some sort of gesture before time runs out. Estimates
range from late December to mid-January as to when the NHL will officially declare the season null and void.
"I wasn't discouraged (by the lack of action at the union meeting) because I didn't expect any positive movement
to occur,'' Primeau said. "It became an information session for those few guys who said they weren't in the loop or abreast
of the situation, the negotiations.
"It just reaffirmed the resolve of the organization and what the owners are trying to force upon us.''
At this point, the skating sessions are more a reason to get out of the house than anything else. More than
half the Flyers are either playing in Europe, makeshift leagues in Canada or with the Phantoms. The rest are on their own.
"I've personally known and prepared for four or five years for this point in time,'' Primeau said. "As difficult
and discouraging as it is for the fans, those players that paid attention understand this is a real conflict of opinions and
it's really not going to get solved in the near term, I don't believe.''
Primeau also fired a shot at some of the agents who recently have gone on record to say players should consider
accepting some form of salary cap.
"They want to be careful,'' Primeau said. "Almost every proposal the owners have made include non-existent
agents. We're protecting them as much as ourselves.''
Weinrich agreed with that assessment.
"With a salary cap, 90 percent of the players wouldn't need an agent,'' he said. "Everything is going to be
determined by the cap. There would be no negotiating going on. If we're not getting paid, they're not getting paid.''
Kapanen doesn't sound too optimistic about the prospects for a season.
"I don't think too much has changed in the past couple months,'' he said. "I think everyone knows the deadline
is going to be sometime in December and if nothing happens, the season is going to be cancelled.
"The owners aren't too active right now and it's hard to get anything done when it's one-sided. It's not in
our interests to lose the season. We didn't start this [conflict] but we're trying to finish it.''