Skaters eager for pros’ return

After a 119-day lockout, the National Hockey League is rushing back into action. 

Fans across the globe have been anxiously awaiting the return of the coolest game on ice, including those in the Cayman Islands. Among them is Jagger Hope, 15, who states he remains a committed fan of the sport. 

“I’m excited for it, I’ve been waiting for this all year,” Hope said. “I won’t lose my love of the game for the lockout. It’s one of those things where everyone wants more money and people are greedy. 

“The Montreal Canadiens are my favourite team and I’ll be looking out for centre David Desharnais.” 

The opening day of matches takes place on Saturday, 19 January. Arguably the biggest games feature the reigning champions, the Los Angeles Kings, battling Patrick Kane’s Chicago Blackhawks with Sidney Crosby leading the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Philadelphia Flyers. Both are slated for 3pm on NBC. 

For Kings star goaltender Jonathan Quick, who recovered from back surgery, the lockout offered a chance to be at 100 per cent. 

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time now,” said Quick, who suffered from a herniated disc. “I feel great, it’s the best I’ve felt probably since last February. There’s no pain now and I get to just play. 

“When I was playing, that’s when I’d get the least amount of pain. It was manageable on the ice.” 

Quick helped his Kings win their first Stanley Cup, allowing just seven goals in the best-of-seven finals against Martin Brodeur’s New Jersey Devils. 

Hockey’s four-month lockout marked the third work stoppage in less than two decades. Negotiations, which centred on the distribution of league revenue between players and team owners, ended with an agreement for proposed labour peace for at least eight years. Normally an 82-game season, the 2013 campaign is reduced to 48 matches with the playoffs starting on 30 April. 

Nevertheless, local fans like Shawn Lansdell, 11, are optimistic. 

“I’m excited, it’s all good,” Lansdell said. “I’ve been waiting for it because they stopped playing hockey for awhile. I’ll be especially focused on the Vancouver Canucks, my favourite team.” 

Lansdell and Hope came to the fore after taking part in the third annual Cayman Hockey Fights Cancer youth street hockey tournament. Put on by the Cayman Islands Youth Roller Hockey Club, organisers Aaron and Tania Knapik oversaw hundreds of kids storming the road in front of Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre. 

Four-on-four action was split up into various age divisions and included a hockey mum category. For 2013, 50 per cent of tournament proceeds were donated to the Cayman Islands Cancer Society to fund a special project to build a new chemotherapy unit at the George Town Hospital. 

Ultimately, local hockey action and the return of the pros are positives for little skaters like Ethan Finlason, 10.  

“I’m heading into the 13 and Under/PeeWee division of the youth roller hockey league at Kings Sports Centre,” Finlason said. “I’m looking forward to playing this year. 

“I’m excited about the end of the lockout. I like watching games and staying up late. Now I can stay up late and watch my favourite team, the Chicago Blackhawks and my favourite player Jonathan Toews, who has the same birthday as me.”