Ben Raby, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Karl Alzner will likely spend Christmas in Western Canada and be home for the holidays for the first time in eight years.
It is small consolation for the Washington Capitals defenseman who admits that he's "extremely bored," as the NHL lockout approaches its 90th day.
Unlike eight of his Capitals teammates who have spent at least some time playing in Europe this fall, Alzner has remained in Calgary, Alberta, with his wife Mandy and their two dogs.
He has also joined a group of about 20 players, including Caps teammate Jeff Schultz, who routinely skate and work out together four hours a day, five days a week.
"Then we head home," Alzner said in a phone interview of his daily routine. "Or maybe do some Christmas shopping. Unfortunately we have to watch a ton of TV to pass the time… then when it snows, you can go outside with the dogs. We actually went dog-sledding last Saturday which was a blast, so that was pretty neat. But that's your average day - go to the rink, do your work, come home and spend time with the family."
For many, that's a great day. But for a 24-year-old athlete who has played no fewer than 88 professional hockey games in each of the last four years, there is plenty of angst.
Something has been missing for Alzner - the intensity of a meaningful hockey game.
Alzner says that his growing restlessness throughout the NHL work stoppage drove him to make a few phone calls three weeks ago.
"I was talking to some of the (staff) with Hockey Canada and asking if they needed any help (for their World Junior selection camp), or if they could use somebody to help coach or give a little insight."
Hockey Canada's Senior Director of Hockey Operations Scott Salmond immediately took Alzner up on his offer and asked if he would like to help coach at the team's intrasquad scrimmage.
The World Junior Hockey Championships rank among hockey's most prestigious annual tournaments and Canada's annual 'Red vs. White' scrimmage goes a long way in determining its final roster.
"The (full-time) coaching staff is watching the game from a box and critiquing. So me and (Calgary Flames forward) Mike Cammalleri went behind the benches," said Alzner, who was officially listed as an honorary coach.
"We actually did a lot more than we were expecting. (The full-time coaches) went over what they wanted the D-men to do on breakouts, who our guys were and who they wanted them out against. It was just more than what I was expecting. My team had five D, so I was just running the lines, making sure everyone got out there enough and that their shifts weren't too long."
Alzner was a two-time gold medalist at the World Junior Hockey Championships and captained Team Canada in 2008. He admits that "you can't help but feel a little old," when the guys he worked with are looking up to him and seeking his advice.
In his coaching debut, Alzner worked with two first-round NHL draft picks in Ryan Murphy (12th overall, 2011) and Derek Pouliot (8th overall, 2012), two second-round picks in Scott Harrington (54th overall, 2011) and Ryan Sproule (55th overall, 2011) and a third-round pick in Adam Pelech (65th overall, 2012).
"It made it a little bit challenging having to run just five D and needing to find a good order but it was fun and a pretty good experience - something that I'd like to do eventually, maybe at the end of my career."
For the record, Alzner's 'White' team fell to the 'Red' team 3-1, but it didn't take away from the experience.
"I got a really good appreciation for (coaching) and then after the game they asked for our opinions and what we thought of the guys so I think (management) appreciated a fresh set of eyes looking at their players. It was a really good eye-opening experience for me on the coaching front. It was a blast."
Canada's selection camp ends Thursday in Calgary, with the announcement of a final 23-man roster to follow. The 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships take place Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, in Ufa, Russia.
CAPS PROSPECT TOM WILSON:
Capitals prospect Tom Wilson survived the first round of cuts Wednesday and has a chance to make Team Canada as a bottom six forward. So what has Alzner seen from the 6-foot-3, 205-pound bruising forward?
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