Patrick Sharp says he expects to be in Chicago when the Blackhawks training camp is set to open.
Gary Bettman may have other ideas.
The NHL commissioner is on record saying he’ll shut down the league if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached by Sept. 15.
That only leaves five weeks for the owners and players to close the gap, but Sharp, ever the optimist, says he’s convinced it will happen.
“I don’t want to say I’m not concerned,” said Sharp, who on Thursday helped raise $83,000 at the Patrick Sharp Golf Tournament in support of the George Jeffrey Children’s Centre. “I have full trust in our union and the representatives that are working on it right now.
“But I’m not too concerned at all. I think both sides want to get a deal done. There’s room to do so and as far as I’m concerned, I’m prepared to play. Sept. 22 is when our training camp opens and I think we’ll get it done.”
Sharp, who had 33 goals and 36 assists in 74 games last season, the third time he’s cracked the 30-goal mark in nine NHL seasons, said he doesn’t really have contingency plans in case of another lockout , but won’t be idle if there is no hockey when October rolls around.
Sharp spent the 2004-05 season – when another lockout wiped out the entire campaign – in the American Hockey League. It could happen again, he suggested.
“It’s something I haven’t even thought of. I have faith in our union and the league. But I’ll want to play hockey somewhere, whether it’s practicing with the Thunderwolves or going overseas or playing in the American League, I’ll be playing somewhere.”
With the summer Olympics occupying the thoughts of the sports-minded these days, Sharp, whose daughter Madelyn was born seven months ago, has a different set of Games in mind. While the NHL has yet to officially commit to sending players to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Games, the high-scoring forward said he wants to be part of the conversation when Team Canada is chosen.
Listed as a bubble option by several prognosticators, Sharp says he’ll do his level best to ensure he’s at least in the mix.
“It’s certainly a personal goal. It’d be an honour to play for Team Canada. I’ve had the opportunity a few times in the world championships. It’s always a great experience and whenever you get a chance to represent you country, whether it’s a junior event, the world championships or the Olympics, it’s an honour to do so,” Sharp said.
“So we’ll see.”
Of course, staying healthy for a full season will help, a goal that tops Sharp’s personal list of hoped for accomplishments in 2012-13.
He missed eight games with a hand injury after being slashed by Detroit’s Jiri Hudler in January, and only once has he not missed any time during his NHL career.
“It seems like every year I have a nagging injury, whether it’s a knee or a wrist or something, that sits me out for a week or two,” said Sharp, author of 193 goals and 385 points in 567 career games.
“It would be nice to play all 82 games and see what kind of numbers I can put up from an individual standpoint,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be healthy for the playoffs every year, and that’s the main thing.”
The Winnipeg-born Sharp will have plenty of local content to keep him company with the Hawks this season.
Newly hired assistant coach Jamie Kompon, fresh off a stint and Stanley Cup win with the Los Angeles Kings, joins assistant GM Norm McIvor in the Windy City, a group that could grow by one if goalie Carter Hutton cracks the roster this season.
It’s sounds good to Sharp.
“The more Thunder Bay guys, the better,” he said.
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