Coach: 'I have ... no control over anything'

Updated: February 6, 2005, 4:39 PM ET
Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock was having a super Sunday even hours before good friend Andy Reid led the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.

Hitchcock was back on skates, wearing Flyers black and orange from head to toe and a whistle around his neck.

He wasn't yelling instructions or encouragement to Philadelphia stars Keith Primeau of Jeremy Roenick. No, this session was for 15 area adults who are trying to learn how to play the game.

This has been a tough 4½ months for the veteran coach, who was one win away last spring from reaching the Stanley Cup finals. Philadelphia lost to the champion Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the conference finals, and now a lockout has kept him from a chance to win a second title.

There has been no contact between the NHL and the players' association since three straight days of talks ended Friday, two sources close to the negotiations told The Associated Press on Sunday on the condition of anonymity.

The union said there was no progress made last week, but the league countered that talks were extensive and constructive.

"As a coach, you're in control of a lot of things," Hitchcock said. "The unnerving part for me is I have absolutely no control over anything."

If the NHL and the players' association don't get on the same page soon on such issues as whether the league should operate under a salary cap, then Hitchcock will have more time to fill.

"The silence was killing me. I'd rather see them argue and fight," he said.

He's also spent time coaching at all levels during this break, working in Texas with minor-league players, at the collegiate level and with 9-year-old children.

"It's been a tough situation for everybody but there are some positives on a personal basis," Hitchcock said while sitting in his office at the bottom level of the Flyers' practice facility.

It's been way too quiet there for Hitchcock's tastes. What makes it worse is that the sides seem no closer to a deal.

"We're in the middle of a great window of opportunity," Hitchcock said of the Flyers. "That's made everybody anxious here. We know our window is now, so that's a little bit troubling."

But Hitchcock has kept a positive attitude that a deal will be reached this season. The only time he strayed was during the first week in January, when earlier negotiations broke off.

"What was really surprising to me is I felt this is very consuming because it's my life," Hitchcock said. "Then I ask other people, and they're all doing the same thing. They're trying to read snippets on the Internet, they're trying to phone people that they think know.

"It's a very uneasy, unnerving feeling. It's hard until there's a decision -- one way or the other -- to get comfortable. You're living on snippets of information, on hope. It's intriguing, but I'm telling you, emotionally it's pretty draining," he said.

He planned to get a bit of a release at a party later Sunday, watching Reid and the Eagles take on the New England Patriots. During Hitchcock's three years as Flyers coach, the two big men have become close friends.

This was a rare treat for the hockey lifer, who is usually too wrapped up with his team to watch the Super Bowl with friends.

"The two-week wait to play has been excruciating," said Hitchcock, who led the Dallas Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup title. "I can't believe how long two weeks is. I would've liked to get going last week.

"Even when Dallas was winning them, the only time I've ever watched the Super Bowl with anybody was when I came here to Philadelphia," he said.

Sunday began the third five-week adult teaching clinic run by Hitchcock since the lockout started in September. He's much more in the swing of things now, but he had a lot of brushing up to do.

"I've had to go back on the Internet and learn the teaching process, because you take those things for granted," he said.

Just like coaching in the NHL.

"I just look at what happens if (the season) does drop, and that feeling makes me sick," Hitchcock said. "That's the feeling that almost makes you stop in traffic when you're thinking that way, 'If that happens, where the hell is our game going to go?'

"When I think like that, I change my thought process right away because that literally takes the wind out of me. It takes my breath away," he said.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press