WINDSOR, Ontario — Thanks to a charity game, three NHL players — Kevin Westgarth, Shawn Horcoff and Jamal Mayers — got a chance to get more comfortable on the ice than they were earlier in the week.
They were playing hockey in a Canadian rink Saturday night, two days after being part of the union negotiating team in a New York hotel where labor talks with the league fell apart.
"I'm happy to be in a situation to do it, but I'd rather be on the ice," said Westgarth, a Los Angeles Kings forward. "That's where I want to be."
Westgarth was one of 36 locked-out players in an event at the WFCU Centre — less than 10 miles from Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings — that raised money for charity and gave the idle pros an opportunity to do what they do best.
The game was sloppy and choppy early, understandably so because the lockout has lasted nearly three months, before some sharp passes and one-timers put their talent on display for about 4,500 fans.
"We all want to be playing real games," said Detroit Red Wings forward Dan Cleary, one of the players who organized the event.
"If we're not playing, we might as well do something good with our time, try to give back to the fans, to charities."
Cleary said a similar event is planned for Dec. 19 in Toronto.
With NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman insisting the two sides are still very far apart, there's a good chance more games will be cancelled soon.
The lockout has already wiped out all games through Dec. 14 along with the Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Michigan Stadium and the All-Star game on Jan. 27 in Ohio.
Bettman has said the league won't consider a season that would last fewer than 48 games — the same length it had after the 1994-95 lockout — and that seems to leave about a month to get a deal done.