If there’s any league prepared to handle a work stoppage, it’s the NHL.
However, the current hiatus is quite unprecedented. Former Flyer and current Flyers Pregame and Postgame Live analyst Chris Therien has been through three lockouts — two as a player and one as a broadcaster for the team.
He said the current hiatus presents much bigger issues.
“Everyone has to do the best they can to stay in shape, but access to ice rinks is going to be an issue,” Therien said Tuesday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia.
After President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency last weekend, access to virtually any non-essential establishment has become problematic. Many cities in North America have been shut down and this was not an issue NHL players faced during the 1994-95 lockout.
Therien and his teammates were able to keep playing hockey during that hiatus. The 1990 third-round draft pick appeared in 34 games for the AHL’s Hershey Bears.
“The first one wasn’t hard,” Therien said. “I made the Flyers, I had never played an NHL game and I was ready to go. Terry Murray called me into his office and told me I was going down to Hershey. He said we need you to play and that if we had a game in a couple of days, I would be in the lineup.”
Ten years later, the situation was much different, as the NHL once again locked its doors in 2004-05.
“We knew it was coming,” Therien said. “Keith Primeau and a couple of guys, along with myself, got the ice at Medford Ice Rink. We did that for a while, but then it got old, and you would notice some of the guys stopped coming. Guys did go play in Europe, I didn’t. I had a young family at the time. We tried to stay busy, but it wasn’t like this.”
Eventually the league cancelled the entire season, a move that Therien never believed was a possibility.
“I didn’t ever think they would actually cancel a whole NHL season,” he said.
That reality seems to be on the table once again. With the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, anything is on the table for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
“I’m anticipating and hoping we play again,” Therien said. “The players, the media and the fans, though, may have to prepare for that reality. I never thought it would happen in 2004 and that wasn’t anything like what we’re dealing with now.”
The 1994-95 and 2012-13 lockouts resulted in condensed seasons, which Therien referred to as “mad scrambles” to the finish. When asked to compare what this year could be like if/when play resumes, Therien said 2019-20 will be much different.
“You’re going to start at the playoffs,” Therien said. “You’re supposed to be getting ready now and you’re not, that’s the big difference. This isn’t January, we’re already in it.”
Until then, the hockey world waits for the tape-to-tape passes, the shaking of the boards and the sound of the goal horn to return.
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