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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Steve Ott getting to play hockey in a 'flash'

By Scott Burnside

One of the interesting phenomena to grow out of the ongoing NHL lockout has been what might be dubbed the "flash camp."

With relatively short notice, groups of NHL players have descended on a variety of locations like Dallas and Phoenix this fall to hold impromptu camps featuring some of the top names in the game.

Unlike places like Minnesota where there is a large group of NHLers who make the so-called State of Hockey home or are Wild players to provide a ready-made group for ongoing workouts and scrimmages, these flash camps involve significant travel for many of the participants.

In Phoenix, for instance, players like Sidney Crosby, Ryan Miller, Ryan Whitney and others joined a regular group of Phoenix Coyotes players for workouts and scrimmages last week, much to the delight of hockey-starved Arizona fans.

“It’s basically an NHL training camp,” explained Buffalo Sabres forward Steve Ott, who attended gatherings in Dallas and Phoenix.

The camps include trainers, coaches and officials to give the proceedings a professional feel.

“It’s what we’re trying to accomplish. These camps have been phenomenal,” Ott said as the Phoenix camp was preparing to break late last week.

In Dallas, Crosby and Edmonton captain Shawn Horcoff divided up the squads in an informal draft so that goaltenders, defensemen and forwards were equitably distributed, Ott said. In Phoenix, given the large group of Phoenix-based players already working out, the newcomers more or less formed their own team for scrimmage purposes.

The camps, along with a variety of charity games, have given those NHL players who have not yet or have no plans to pursue work in Europe a chance to keep their skills sharp and to bond with players going through the shared experience of being without the game that is their livelihood.

“We’re ready to go. That’s the tough part,” Ott said.

It can make for some interesting times if you’re a player like Ott, whose stock in trade is to agitate and annoy opposing players while mixing in a healthy dose of skill.

He acknowledged there might have been an awkward moment in the locker room when a memory of a play or a comment bubbled to the surface.

But those moments pass quickly, he said.

“Guys might be a little hesitant. I’m used to battling against a lot of these guys,” Ott conceded.

“But once you’re in the dressing room with a guy it doesn’t take very long to find out what kind of person he is. Pretty soon you’re laughing about something I’ve done or they’ve done to me.”

Although there has been talk of returning to Phoenix in a week’s time pending negotiations, Ott has his plate full organizing a charity event in his hometown of Winsor, Ontario, with Detroit Red Wing Danny Cleary and Horcoff.

“We’re all sitting here waiting to play. So hopefully we can do some good for a great charity,” Ott said.

The game is set for Saturday night at the home of the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires, where Ott played before Dallas made him the 25th overall pick in 2000.

Close to 40 players are expected to take part in the game that will raise money to help fight children's cancer as well as other local charities. The NHLPA will also be donating 25 sets of equipment to needy kids in the area as part of their successful Goals and Dreams foundation.

Traded in the offseason to Buffalo, Ott worked out for a short time with his new Sabres teammates in Buffalo. So he was grateful for the response from all those contacted about playing in the charity game, especially his new teammates, including Jordan Leopold, Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Matt Ellis.

“Every single guy that I called pretty much committed,” Ott said.

Like most NHLers, Ott feels the twin pulls of wanting a deal that works for the players, not just now but down the road, and the desire to get back to work as quickly as possible.

For Ott that desire to play is ramped up given that he has a new team for whom he wants to make an impression and prove that their acquisition of him for popular center Derek Roy was the right move.

“I’m excited. I’m ready to chomp on the bit,” Ott said.