Lupul warns NHL not to take fans for granted

Mark Masters

9/13/2012 3:08:38 PM

Joffrey Lupul has a warning for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: don't take hockey fans for granted.

"I think it's important that we realize this effects a lot of people besides us," the Toronto Maple Leafs left winger said on Thursday after skating with some teammates at the club's practice facility. "I'm a hockey fan myself and this is the second time in 10 years we've been in this situation and so that's pretty disappointing.

"We know hockey has a lot of great fans but, with that being said, at some point there is a time when fans will get fed up and hopefully these negotiations can start getting a little more serious. I know our side definitely has the fans in mind."

Bettman ruffled some feathers last month when he told reporters his league was able to recover from the last work stoppage, which wiped out the 2004-05 season, because "we have the world's greatest fans."

But Lupul believes even the most loyal fans have a breaking point.

"I've been a hockey fan since I was four-years-old and it's frustrating to see stuff like this so I can only imagine what someone else thinks, [someone] that doesn't play in the NHL. We're definitely worried about fans and both sides probably want to apologize to them right now."

And while many fans are already worried about this weekend's lockout deadline, Lupul suggests it's a little too early to push the panic button.

"September 15th is the date they've had penciled in because the agreement is expiring but, truly, camp doesn't start until the 22nd so there's a one-week period there where they say the lockout's on, but it really hasn't begun until you start missing the first day of camp. That gives you another week there to negotiate and hopefully things will move in the right direction."

The all-star, who scored 25 goals in 66 games last season, doesn't expect any real movement in the talks to take place until after the deadline passes. As a result, he had no reason to tune in to Bettman's news conference on Thursday afternoon. 

"Typically, I haven't been watching any of the press conferences," he said. "We get updated on our site and on the iPhone App and things like that. Typically, those press conferences are more of a PR move by Gary for the most part so I don't think you're going to find too much useful information when he's speaking to the media."

If the worst-case scenario happens and the season is lost Lupul plans on playing somewhere and is already thinking about options in Europe. Although he has yet to set a personal deadline for when he would need to make a call on that. 

"At some point there's a time guys look at Europe, because we want to play. It's been a good off-season for me. I worked extremely hard, I'm in good shape and I'm ready to play hockey."