For the Canes' Eric Staal, there seemingly was symbolism in everything.
Having put in a skate at Raleigh Center Ice, he was standing near a locked door that said, "Property of the Carolina Hurricanes." He had just paid for the ice time -- money out of his pocket. He was lugging his own equipment bag.
Such is life for an NHL player during the NHL lockout. It's October and he has no games to play. He's a team captain with no team to captain. He didn't spend his time at RCI skating in circles -- with brother Jordan Staal, Joni Pitkanen and a few others -- but he might as well have been doing it as the NHL and NHLPA continues to haggle over a CBA.
"There's a lot of mixed emotions you go through," Staal said. "There are times when you're frustrated, times when you're wondering what both sides are doing.
"I guess now it's down to where we're going to be losing games. Everyone is missing out. You hope here in the next very short time they get down to it and get serious and get it done."
The lockout began Sept. 16 and the NHL by last week had canceled all preseason games. Today, the NHL announced the cancellation of the regular-season schedule from Oct. 11 to Oct. 24.
"It's starts to get real," Staal said. "There's real money lost for players and more money lost for owners. It's too bad because of where the game has been going and how it's grown.
"You'd like to think these people are smart enough to figure out how to get a deal structured properly for both sides to be OK with it. We're not at that point yet, and it's hopefully sooner than later."
Staal was asked if he and the NHL players are prepared to sit out an entire season, as the players did in 2004-2005 because of labor strife.
"I don't think anybody wants that," he said. "I don't think their side wants that and I don't think we want that. What we want is a fair deal and I don't think we've gotten to that point yet.
"Obviously it's a process and it's been a long process, an up-and-down process.. But I don't think there's anybody on either side who would say they want to miss the whole season, because no one wins in that regard."
Staal stands to lose big -- $8.5 million in salary if the entire season is canceled. He's the highest-paid player on the Canes. But many players, regardless of where they fall on the salary scale, would feel the pinch.
Will the NHLPA be able to stand strong, or will there be some splintering, especially from the top-end star players?
"I think it's about both sides just coming together to get a deal," Staal said. "I don't like how, especially the media, they portray how one side wins and the other side loses. No one wins when we're not playing.
"It's about getting a deal done. Yes, if we miss a season you're never going to get that money back, you're never going to make that up again, regardless. But right now we're in this, we're in the negotiations and it's taking a longer process than anyone would have hoped."
Staal said he has heard speculation about the league possibly bringing in replacement players. But he more or less laughed off the notion.
"I don't know," he said, smiling. "It seems kind of silly. I don't know if it will ever get to that point. You'd like to think both sides will continue to talk and just get it done.
"It's frustrating for fans, it's frustrating for us. We need to get it figured out."
For now, Staal waits. He and Jordan say they have no plans -- for now -- to go overseas and play. But if there's no hockey by December ...