DALY CITY Sharks forward Ryane Clowe has done everything in his power to stay active during the NHL lockout, which is now in its eighth week.
Hes been to Vail, Colorado, to train and play with a group that included and was organized by Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Later, that assemblage changed locales and convened in Dallas, Texas for some more intense practices and scrimmages. In between, Clowe has been at Sharks Ice, skating with the few remaining Sharks teammates of his that are still within driving distance as opposed to some far-off country.
Now, hes an official member of the ECHLs San Francisco Bulls, but wont suit up for either of their games this weekend at the Cow Palace. Instead, hes practicing with the first-year squad, hoping to stay in tip-top shape should the NHL and its players association strike a deal for a shortened season.
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Just being in the practices is nice, getting a good team and organized skate is something youre looking for, Clowe said on Thursday. Skating on your own kind of gets old, so Im happy they let me come up.
Still, Clowe said, I honestly cant say that I hope to play in two weeks, or that I have a date. I just really have no plans on playing.
Its not out of the question at some point, though. While the league and players association have met for three straight days, theres still a very real chance that talks could break down again, putting the season in jeopardy. Clowe is optimistic that the lockout will end shortly, but also mentioned he never expected the NHL to cancel the Winter Classic last Friday, so his feelings may not be much of a barometer.
NEWS: More talks scheduled for Friday
Both sides are showing they want to get something done when youre hammering it out like that, Clowe said of the meetings, which will resume on Friday in New York. But, anything can turn in those meetings. When it comes down to the main details, like guys getting their guaranteed contracts and the whole make whole thing, when it comes down to those things, thats where youve got to make some ground.
Clowe could use the opportunity with the Bulls to get back into game shape, if a shortened NHL season becomes more likely over the next few days or weeks.
If things start to progress, it might be an opportunity where I could think about playing, because you want to get a couple games in before you get back. That was just an option that I thought about, nothing serious, but Id probably lean more that way if it goes long.
Clowes reasons for not playing just yet are numerous, not the least of which is the 30-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Considering his aggressive nature, in-your-face style of play, a concussion suffered last season, and the possibility that a hulking, low-level minor leaguer might want to target an established NHL forward, and Clowe may be better served watching from the press box.
Or, he could be behind the bench to help out the coaching staff, which includes Bulls owner, president and head coach Pat Curcio.
Its like having another coach, another player and another captain, Curcio said. I cant even tell you how much we like having him around. A guy to lean on, talk to hes been awesome. What hes done for the players already, its leadership you just cant find at this level, so its great.
As Curcio alluded to, Clowe can help the Bulls as much as theyre helping him. One of the veteran leaders in the Sharks locker room, Clowe is more than willing to mentor the young players on the Bulls in any way he can.
The guys are great. Theyre like sponges and like to learn. They are hard workers, and it seems like a good team vibe here. I like being around the guys, Clowe said.
Ive told the guys, ask me if youve got any questions and Ill try to help out. I love to see young guys who want to learn, its great to see.
Still, Clowe would preferably be back in his black and teal sweater, earning what was supposed to be the final year of a four-year, 14.5 million contract. Hes closely monitoring this weeks collective bargaining talks, which could eventually lead to an agreement and even a 60-70 game NHL season. In the last three days, representatives from the NHL and NHLPA have been in the same room for about 18 hours, after not meeting at all since Oct. 18.
Any time you lock two people in a room to try and hammer it out for close to 20 hours, that means guys are bouncing stuff back and forth and people are listening and ears are open, Clowe said. Thats a lot better than what was going on before that.