Dion Phaneuf, here against the Montreal Canadiens last season, blames the pending lockout on Gary Bettman and the owners.

Leafs preparing for season despite lockout talk

Negotiation deadline looms, but Toronto's team is hopeful

As the clock winds down on the Sept. 15 NHL CBA negotiation deadline, some of the players on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster remain hopeful they may open the 2012-2013 season as scheduled.

Head coach Randy Carlyle, for one, seems to be brushing off the effects of the unyielding debates between owners and players.

“You’re emotions go on a daily up and down with whether they’re going to have a conversation or not going to have a conversation,” he said to a scrum of reporters following Monday’s Leafs and Legends Charity Golf Classic in Milton.

“But as a coaching staff, you have to prepare as if you’re going to play and until they tell us otherwise, it’s business as usual for us.”

And he believes his team is on the same page.

“You can see by the number of players attending [the golf tournament], they’re taking the same attitude,” said the 56-year-old into a sea of media microphones. “We as a coaching staff have met a couple of times over the summer.

“We have another meeting scheduled for Monday the 17th to finalize the first three days of training camp.”

Team captain Dion Phaneuf also shared his hopes that negotiations will be settled in the players’ favour, pinning the blame for a pending lockout on the owners and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

“We are confident that we’re still going to get something done and we’re working towards getting a fair deal,” he told the media in Milton. “As players, we’ve been saying all along we want to play and we want to get something worked out and get a deal done that allows us to play.

“The fans don’t want to see a lockout, the players don’t, but the owners and Gary have been the only ones who’ve used the word ‘lockout.’ We haven’t used the word strike or anything like that.”

Forward Joffrey Lupul echoed his captain’s sentiments.

“We have the opportunity now to see the numbers and see what each team makes and how much the league has grown in past years. We’ve seen how much revenue the league is creating,” said the Alberta native.

“When we got to see those numbers and see a business that is growing so steadily, I don’t think anyone really expected there to be a lockout, but this seems that this has been [the owners’] plan the whole time along and they want to get this lockout started and hopefully that’s Step 1 in their negotiations.”

Lupul was 21 and about to enter his second year in the NHL at the time of the last lockout in 2004.

Forced to sit out a season of his professional career eight years ago, the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft insists he’ll be playing hockey this season, regardless of what happens in the next few days.

Just where that might be is still undetermined.

“I’ve … made some calls to teams in Europe and there are definitely some options for me to go play there,” the 28-year-old told the scrum. “I’m just going to wait and kind of take it week by week right now but I’ve trained hard all summer.

“I’m ready to go, I’m ready to play, and I’ll be playing hockey somewhere this year.

“I want to play in Toronto. This is where everybody wants to play in the NHL, but on the other hand, I missed one year of my career to a lockout already so it’d be tough to sit out another year to another owners’ lockout.”

Unlike his teammate, Phaneuf isn’t thinking about playing overseas should a lockout force players out of work this season.

“My focus is to prepare here [in Toronto] and get ready for the start of training camp,” the 27-year-old said. “There are no other plans… I haven’t even thought of any other option, that’s for sure.

“I’m focused on getting ready to play here and hopefully start the year on time.”

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