The 30 National Hockey League team owners may be close to locking out players, but even if it happens, the American Hockey League isn’t expected to be affected.
“We as a league are run independently and expect full rosters and to obviously operate a complete, full uninterrupted season, much like we’ve done in the past,” said Brian Petrovek, the managing owner/CEO of the Portland Pirates.
“We’re separate and distinct, and our plan is our plan, and it goes forward regardless of what happens in that league.”
The NHL is negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association and has set Sept. 15 as a deadline for reaching agreement.
If that doesn’t happen, the owners intend to lock the players out of training camp.
After making absolutely no headway during a two-hour negotiating session Wednesday in Toronto, the sides are scheduled to resume negotiations Tuesday in New York.
The Portland Pirates, entering their second season as the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, will open their training camp Sept. 28 at the Portland Ice Arena. Renovations to the Cumberland County Center are expected to be under way by then, so the team will hold practices for the first month at the Ice Arena.
“The good news at the (AHL) level is we’re going to be playing hockey,” said Brad Treliving, the Coyotes’ assistant general manager who serves as general manager of the Pirates on the hockey operations side. “We know we’ve got a training camp, a season and a schedule.”
The Pirates are scheduled to open Oct. 13 against the Adirondack Phantoms in Glens Falls, N.Y.
Because of renovation work at the Civic Center, the Pirates will play their first two home games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston — Oct. 19 against the Worcester Sharks and Oct. 27 against the Binghamton Senators.
The first game at the Civic Center will be Nov. 2 against the St. John’s IceCaps.
Because of the impending lockout, the Coyotes had to change their preseason plans, cancelling the rookie camp scheduled to start Sept. 16.
“Usually the young guys come in a week before the main camp, but we just made the decision this week not to have it because of the uncertainty,” Treliving said.
“You have to book flights, and it just made sense right now not to have it. Hopefully if we have good news, it’s something we can adjust.”
Phoenix is still planning to open its main training camp Sept. 21.
“Right now, all our planning and preparation would be for us to start on time,” Treliving said. “Obviously you have to have Plan B and C (but) I guess right now my only comment is we’ll have to wait and see.”
When the NHL owners locked out their players for the entire 2004-05 season, the Pirates, affiliated at the time with the Washington Capitals, received a boost to their lineup. A few players who could have been assigned to the Caps if the NHL took to the ice that season ended up playing in Portland.
It’s unclear what effect a lockout would have on the Pirates’ roster.
“I don’t know whether anything similar is going to happen,” Petrovek said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen during the next couple of weeks. Who knows what they agree to relative to the terms of the lockout. We’ve been instructed to not speculate in that regard, and we’re not doing that.”
Nine players in the Phoenix organization are signed to two-way contracts, which guarantees them one rate of pay when they play in the NHL and a much lower rate when they are assigned to an AHL team. All of them are eligible to play for the Pirates.
That list includes veteran goalie Chad Johnson; defensemen Maxim Goncharov, David Rundblad and Michael Stone; and forwards Alexander Bolduc, Rob Klinkhammer, Nick Johnson, Andy Miele and Joel Rechlicz.
Pirates Coach Ray Edwards doubts the Coyotes will assign any player signed strictly to a NHL contract to the Pirates.
“We don’t do that,” he said. “We don’t sign guys on one-way (contracts) for the minors.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]