Josh Gorges is itching to play some real hockey.
The Montreal Canadiens' defenceman who organized an outdoor shinny session with fans on Boxing Day can't wait to entertain them in an NHL arena. But the Kelowna product and the rest of his peers remain on standby as negotiations continue towards saving a shortened season. The lockout enters its 16th week today, but, with help from a mediator, the NHL and players' association appear to be nearing a new deal.
"That's the plan," Gorges said on Friday. "There's not much time left, according to them there's only another week to get the deal done before they cancel the season. Time is running up, so hopefully it gets resolved here quickly."
Commissioner Gary Bettman has indicated the deadline for salvaging a 48-game season is this Friday, Jan. 11, with the puck to drop on Jan. 19.
Gorges and several of his Canadiens teammates have been preparing for that possibility by practising together in Montreal for a number of weeks, or months in some cases.
"There's a group of us here," said Gorges, listing off a handful of players including his former Kelowna Rockets teammate Travis Moen, Habs captain Brian Gionta, Erik Cole and Brandon Prust. "We all skate together and train together and keep ourselves as sharp as we can."
Asked if he had a back-up plan should the NHL instead cancel this season - as it did the 2004-05 campaign - Gorges was noncommittal.
"Other than that, I don't have any other aspirations to do anything yet," he said. "I've always said I'll cross that bridge when, and if, the season gets cancelled. I'll then take a look and think about other things."
The obvious option would be to explore overseas employment potential as many NHLers have done throughout the work stoppage. Gorges, though, wasn't sure that was a good fit for him.
"You play hockey for a reason; for the passion and the love and the willingness to compete for a championship," he said. "I don't know if I would have that passion going over to Europe to win a champion-ship there, so I really don't know if it would be worth my time."
Gorges' father, Pat, is missing the NHL as much or more than most fans.
"I sure hope they get this solved and get going again and play some hockey for us here in Canada," said Pat, a Kelowna resident since 1966. "It's frustrating, and especially for Josh because I know he really wants to play. He's 28 years old, he feels great, his knee feels well and he wanted this year to be a real good year for him.
"To be delayed this long, it's been disheartening for him. But he belongs to the players' union and he has to respect that and stand together."
Pat owns a Dairy Queen franchise here and is able to understand the lockout from both perspectives.
"As a businessman myself, I have to look after my interests as well," he said. "But to sit here and for me to say who's right or wrong, I don't know that answer."