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Mighty Migration : Ducks Branching Out During Work Stoppage

November 12, 1994|ELLIOTT TEAFORD

Nearly a month and a half of the NHL season has passed without hockey, and there is none in sight.

Some Mighty Ducks quickly scattered to Canada and points east. Others have remained in Anaheim, where they skated together three times a week at first. But as the lockout drags on, "it's hard to stay motivated," forward Garry Valk said. And with the expense of ice time--as much as $300 an hour--they recently gave up trying to stay in playing shape and quit skating.

Bob Corkum and Stu Grimson spend time tending to business as NHL Players Assn. representatives. Grimson and Todd Ewen are among those active in charity work. While a few look for odd jobs in what they predicted all along would be a protracted labor dispute, at least three players have filed unemployment claims.

Tom Kurvers completed Lamaze classes with his wife, Suzy--classes he otherwise would have missed--and now stays close by as she spends the final month of her pregnancy on bedrest after the couple's car accident last month.

Only two Ducks, Patrik Carnback and John Lilley, are playing--Carnback in his native Sweden and Lilley with the San Diego Gulls of the International Hockey League.

The others try to stay in shape at the gym, and Kurvers, David Williams and Don McSween have focused their competitive natures on weekend 10-kilometer races. McSween dusted his teammates with a 39-minute time in a Newport Beach race, their first.

Most of the players admit to boredom or frustration, but they've done pretty much what Corkum said they would when the lockout began.

"We're not going to go sit on a beach somewhere and drink pina coladas," he said. "We know the season will start whether it's now or a month from now or two months from now. We just want to play."

John Lilley

After two weeks, John Lilley collided with reality.

Hopes of a quick resolution to the labor impasse melted at that point, and Lilley realized he might be stuck in San Diego for a while.

"At first, when I came down here I went through the motions hoping it was a short-term thing," Lilley said of his assignment to the Gulls.

The Ducks sent Lilley, a young, scrappy right wing, to the Gulls so he could keep playing. He had only 13 NHL games experience, joining the Ducks late in the season after playing for the U.S. team at the Lillehammer Olympics. And because he isn't a high-paid player, it doesn't cost the Ducks too much to pay his minor league salary--and frankly, at 22, he could use the money.

"I'm a Gull right now," Lilley said. "It seems more like a long-term thing now. I'm fortunate to be playing."

Duck teammates have stopped by occasionally to watch a Gull game. Joe Sacco comes to watch his younger brother, David, play in his first full professional season. Coach Ron Wilson has visited the San Diego Sports Arena from time to time.

"I've had conversations with a few of the guys," Lilley said. "When guys are driving (more than) an hour to watch a hockey game, you know they're dying to be playing."

Slowly, Lilley has begun to accept his fate. He recently went looking for an apartment, deciding it was time to move out of the hotel he called home for the first month. His goal was a month-to-month lease. You never know when the labor dispute will be resolved.

"If there's a lockout and you get sent some place there are worse places to be than San Diego," Lilley said.

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