For the past four months, a handful of Florida Panthers have gone back in time, working out at the teams original practice rink in Lighthouse Point.
Although the ice is fine, the conditions at Glacier Ice Arena are threadbare compared to what NHL players have grown accustomed.
Players had showers but no hot tub or whirlpool to help with minor injuries. They had an equipment manager, but old equipment.
Instead of having a host of coaches on the ice to keep things moving, the locked-out Panthers hired local youth coach Vlad Cheremeta for motivation.
Those days are almost over as the Panthers are readying to move back to their multimillion-dollar complex in Coral Springs later this week after the two sides came to an agreement to end the lengthy NHL lockout Sunday.
Everyone is excited about getting back to normal, getting back to hockey, forward Peter Mueller said. Were ready to start the season off right. One of the good things about coming down here and spending time here was getting to know so many of the guys. Weve built some chemistry, and thats nice.
Mueller never received new equipment from the Panthers before the NHL lockout went into affect Sept. 16.
His black gloves, leftovers from his days with the Colorado Avalanche, have holes worn through the leather. The chin strap on his Colorado-issued helmet doesnt have much life left in it at all. And the smell coming from those gloves, Mueller says, is indescribable.
Its going to be nice to finally get decked out in some Florida Panthers gear, Mueller said. It will be nice to finally have some towels when were done showering.
Because the new collective bargaining agreement has not been signed by ownership or the players, the Panthers who are in South Florida remain in practice-facility limbo.
They packed up their stuff after Mondays workout not knowing at the time where Tuesdays would be.
Even though many NHL players returned to their teams training facilities Monday management from the Wild watched their players go through workouts in Minnesota Floridas players will practice at Glacier again Tuesday.
Im more excited to see the trainers every day, crack some jokes with them, Tomas Kopecky said. Its going to be fun to see everyone around the rink, the ushers on game day. We talk to them a lot. You dont appreciate the whole routine during the season until you lose it.
The NHLs Board of Governors is expected to vote on ratifying the new CBA on Wednesday, with the players thought to give their approval around the same time. Once the deal is signed, players will be free to return to their facilities and work with team personnel once more.
The Panthers are expected to open training camp at their $10 million Iceplex in Coral Springs on Friday with physicals and other testing. The first on-ice practice would be Saturday morning.
A 48- or 50-game schedule is expected to be released by the league once the CBA is ratified. The Panthers are said to be opening the 2013 season in Sunrise on Jan. 19.
This was a long four months, but weve taken care of the business, Kopecky said.
Now its time to play hockey.
The Panthers invited winger Marek Svatos to training camp, according to a Twitter post from agent Rich Evans on Monday afternoon. Florida spokesman Justin Copertino said the team has not offered camp invitations.
Svatos, 30, didnt play last season because of various injuries. He missed the final few games with Nashville in 2010-11 after sustaining a concussion.
He scored four goals in 28 games with the Predators and Senators that season. Svatos scored 32 goals with the Avalanche as a rookie in 2005-06 and 26 two seasons later.
• Stephen Weiss and Ed Jovanovski both said they were happy the lockout was close to being over and hoped fans would be quick to put the labor strife in the past.