Two local NHLers, including a Sudbury Wolves alumni, made an appearance at the Sudbury Arena Friday night to take in a game and meet with some fans.
After dropping the puck on the team's game against the Mississauga Steelheads, Sudbury native Derek MacKenzie and Lively native Andrew Desjardins signed autographs through the first intermission and chatted with old friends.
While both were happy for the opportunity to meet with their young fans and take in an OHL game in their hometown, they would rather have been out on the ice playing themselves.
"As nice as it is to be here tonight, we'd certainly rather be on our respective teams and playing hockey," MacKenzie said. "The guys who have been dealing with this since day one have been looking after things the best they can and we just hope they can work things out sooner rather than later."
While the NHL lockout has silenced rinks across Canada and the United States for the entire NHL season thus far, talks could resume this week. In the meantime, MacKenzie, a centre with the Columbus Blue Jackets who played with the Wolves from 1997 to 2001, and Desjardins, a centre with the San Jose Sharks who played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds from 2003 to 2007, have been keeping themselves in shape by taking the opportunity to lace up with the Wolves.
"Coach (Trent) Cull has let me come out and skate with the guys," MacKenzie said. "The guys have been great, they kind of treat me as one of the players and that's exactly what I need to get through this so hopefully I can be ready when this does end."
"I'm obviously not happy not playing right now," Desjardins said. "It's a hard thing to comment on.
"I'm skating, working out and sticking to a routine and trying to be consistent with that. I think that's all you can do. Obviously, I want to get on the ice and start playing again, but it just hasn't happened. I'm just doing what I can here in Sudbury."
The Wolves ended up beating the Steelheads Friday night, 5-3. While the team is currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 12-16-0-5, MacKenzie said the Wolves have the potential to be "an exciting team in the second half."
"I practice with these guys every day. It's a great group of guys. With a few injuries, and couple guys leaving for world juniors, they're going to be in tough these next few weeks. But they've got a great coaching staff and ... I think they can really make a push in the second half."