BOSTON – Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg drove by the TD Garden on Tuesday morning on his way to Boston University, where a handful of his teammates have been skating to keep in shape while waiting for the NHL season to start.
“I got a really good feeling imagining going out on the ice and getting excited about being able to play again,” he said. “I’m so excited to be here.”
After spending much of the NHL lockout playing in his native Germany, Seidenberg flew back to Boston on Monday when he heard that NHL players and owners had reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. Both sides must still vote to ratify the deal; they are hoping to start a 48- or 50-game season around Jan. 19.
“Every day I was sitting on my computer, looking at the news, looking at the rumors,” Seidenberg said. “I was hoping for something to happen.”
Seidenberg joined about a dozen NHL players on the ice at BU’s Agganis Arena, wearing NHLPA practice jerseys in a workout run by former Terriers star Mike Grier. Among the Bruins taking part on Tuesday in the two-hour skate were goaltender Tuukka Rask, defenseman Johnny Boychuk and forwards Shawn Thornton, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic.
“It’s nice to get that lift that we are playing finally,” Lucic said. “You kind of take your teammates for granted. You appreciate them more. I missed these guys more than anything.”
Many NHL players sought employment in European leagues during the four-month lockout, with Seidenberg joining his brother on the Mannheim Eagles in Germany.
“I haven’t been there for seven years,” Seidenberg said, adding that it was a chance “just being able to enjoy hanging out with people I haven’t been hanging out with for a long time.”
Lucic said he opted not to sign with a foreign team, choosing instead to recover from the last two, long seasons. Now, he said, he knows he has some catching up to do.
“It was rest that I feel I needed,” he said. “I’ve built up a lot of nagging injuries that I’ve been trying to take care of. Hopefully, I’ll feel better this season.”
The Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2011, lost in the first round to Washington last season. Seidenberg said he thought the Bruins were poised for another strong season.
“We’re still pretty much the same team we were when we won a few years ago,” he said, adding that it is hard to know from the informal practices how fit the players are. “It’s an open practice; guys are having fun. Right now it’s just too hard to tell if somebody’s ready or not.”
Lucic said that the up-and-down nature of the negotiations made it difficult to figure out how to tailor his workouts.
“When you practice like this, it’s nothing compared to the practices we have during the season,” he said. “It was real difficult … You never knew when you needed to get yourself at that peak moment.”
Teams will likely have training camps of one week — or less — before the season, giving the advantage to players who found work in other leagues during the season.
“Everybody that was part of this lockout feels bad for the fans,” Seidenberg said. “We definitely feel bad for it and I think everybody’s sorry for it.”
NHL OWNERS will vote Wednesday on the tentative labor agreement reached with the players’ union.
If a majority approves, as expected, the NHL will move one step closer toward the official end of the long lockout that began Sept. 16.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a memorandum of understanding of the deal hadn’t been completed, so the union has yet to schedule a vote for its more than 700 members. A majority of players also must approve the deal for hockey to return to the ice.
If there are no snags, ratification could be finished by Saturday and training camps can open Sunday if approval is reached on both sides. A 48-game regular season would then be expected to begin on Jan. 19.
The NHL has yet to release a new schedule. The regular season was supposed to begin on Oct. 11.