- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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WOBURN, Mass. -- Boston Bruins president Cam Neely and coach Claude Julien are both “cautiously optimistic” that the NHL lockout will end soon and the game will be back on the ice in time to save at least part of the 2012-2013 season.
When the NHL and the NHLPA met last week in New York, there was a lot of optimism that a deal could be near. But like many other times during negotiations, talks broke down. The latest report is that the NHL is about to officially cancel all games before Dec. 30. The two sides are trying to restart talks this week, but so far nothing is scheduled.
“Like everybody, the emotions run high and then they go low, depending how it all plays out,” Neely said at a Target store, where he and Julien were gathering an assortment of toys for kids in local hospitals. “I think everybody was feeling cautiously optimistic at the board of governor meetings that we were going to get something done but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
“I’ve been half full this whole way, so I’m staying half full. It’s frustrating. A lot of people thought we’d be playing by now, but I still feel optimistic that something will get done. At least that’s my hope.”
“Like everybody else, you get excited and see it’s coming along and you’re keeping your fingers crossed,” Julien said. “I’m cautiously optimistic because the one thing I do know it’s more complicated than a lot of people think it is and at one point we have to make sure we get this done right once and for all, so we don’t have this work stoppage every so many years. You want to do it right and hopefully that’s what happens here."
If the sides are able to come to an agreement, the schedule will be cut at least in half. During the 1994-95 season, the NHL was forced to reduce its schedule to 48 games after a similar work stoppage. Neely was playing for the Bruins at the time and knows what type of hockey will be played if a deal can get done.
“I was a player when we played that 48 games and it was like a sprint towards the playoffs,” explained Neely. “So it’ll be just that, I don’t know how many games if we do end up playing how many we’ll be able to get into the schedule, but it’ll be a sprint to the playoffs and everybody will know that. It’s just a matter of what kind of condition the players are going to be in because it’s going to start off fast and furious.”
The one thing about hockey is there are no casual fans. Hockey fans will come back and watch. At least that’s what league and Bruins are counting on.
“I’m hopeful,” Neely said. “I know they’re going to be upset and rightfully so, but I’m hopeful because of what’s gone on the past few years and we’ve been able to put a team on the ice that’s competing for the Stanley Cup and we’ve won a Stanley Cup. I think our fan base is very excited about our team.
“We haven’t changed much from last year to this year, and even from our Stanley Cup team, we haven’t changed all that much. Our fans are excited about our team and I don’t see that changing. There will be some fans who are upset, but the excitement should still be there.”
Neely and Julien, along with other members of the Bruins coaching and management staffs, participated in team’s annual toy shopping event to benefit children at local hospitals. Neely’s carriage was full and he spent $400 on an assortment of toys for children who will be in the hospital during the holiday season.
As Neely was leaving the Target store, shoppers were shaking his hand and asking for quick pictures. He was then asked what he wanted for Christmas and he quickly responded:
“Like most of us, dropping the puck sometime soon. That would be a great Christmas gift.”