Players from the Florida Panthers were officially locked out from team training facilities as of 11:59 p.m. on Saturday September 15. The NHL lockout prohibits the players from contact with Panthers' staff and team-owned training facilities but for the Panthers' players a lockout won't keep them off the ice.
Fortunately for the players, the team trains at the Savology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs, which isn't a facility that is owned by the team. Saveology.com Iceplex is a public skating facility. During the lockout the players will be able to rent ice time at the facility and continue with informal workouts. The big difference will be that members of the Panthers' organization such as Coach Kevin Dineen and General Manager Dale Tallon will not be present during the workouts.
The other big difference is that any workouts will be completely voluntary. Players may return home if they wish and work out on their own accord. It's important to stay in shape but developing chemistry and flow on the ice can be just as important as strong legs. The longer the players stay off the ice together the more difficult it will be to find chemistry once the lockout ends and they get back on the ice together.
During the lockout the players won't have access to the team's training and medical staff. This is a huge disadvantage if any of the players get injured in a voluntary workout. Players such as Eric Gudbranson who sustained a shoulder injury during an off-ice voluntary workout session will have to make arrangements to receive treatment elsewhere.
A few players will still have access to the team's medical staff. Players who were injured during NHL play last season such as the Panthers' Kris Versteeg will still be able to take advantage of the team's medical staff. Versteeg underwent hip surgery after the end of the Panthers' season last year and is still months away from a full recovery.
No one knows how long the NHL lockout will last. The time frame could be anywhere from a few weeks to the entire 2012-13 season. This lockout is the third stoppage of play due to labor negotiations in the last 20 years. Hockey in the U.S. is already struggling to keep up in popularity with other major league sports such as baseball, football, and basketball and another lockout doesn't help anyone.
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Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein