Kyle Okposo is finally where he wants to be.
With uncertainty surrounding the start of the 2012-13 regular season, the five-year veteran stayed close to home in St. Paul, MN during the work stoppage, working out regularly at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota. The whole time, he remained optimistic and ready to return to Long Island for the start of Islanders Training Camp.
“It’s been a long four months,” Okposo said. “I’ve been skating a lot – usually four times a week. I’ve been working out 3-4 times a week too. We didn’t know everything that was going on, so we couldn’t judge when to go hard, when to take it down a notch, but we just tried to stay ready.”
Joining him for skates and workout sessions were several members of the Minnesota Wild, as well as several other NHLers, including Alex Goligoski, Dustin Byfuglien, James Van Riemsdyk and Colin Wilson. The group usually consisted of 20-30 NHL players. When they couldn’t work out at the school, they rented ice at one of the local rinks.
Okposo said the group went through some tough workouts, but that the more difficult challenge was not knowing when they would be able to return to work.
“That was the toughest thing,” Okposo said. “Your hopes would get up and then would get crushed, and it was just a vicious cycle, up and down. After December, I just tried to stay level and tried not to obsess over it. But it was tough not to look and see what was going on. You just had to try and keep somewhat of a routine.”
The 24-year-old said there was one silver lining to having time away from the rigorous schedule to which NHL players are accustomed.
“I took advantage of the opportunity to have fun with family and friends,” Okposo said. “It’s been nice to spend some time at home. I had a couple of holidays there, which hasn’t happened in a long time. That part of it was different, but it was nice. That being said, I was itching to get back and get playing.”
Okposo had the itch to rejoin his Islanders teammates on the ice so badly, that when he heard the news on Sunday that an agreement had been reached between the NHL and the Players Association, he wasted no time getting to New York. He joined a growing group of Islanders players trickling back to Long Island on Tuesday for an informal skate at Iceworks in preparation for Training Camp
“I got the news, packed my bag and hopped on a plane. My wife is driving the car out later this week.”
He arrived at Iceworks in time to watch the end of Monday’s informal skate. He was the first on the ice Tuesday, ahead of Matt Moulson, Matt Martin, Eric Boulton, Matt Carkner, Marty Reasoner, Rick DiPietro and free agent Radek Martinek. Andrew MacDonald and Frans Nielsen also arrived on Long Island Tuesday and are expected to join in Wednesday’s skate.
The group will continue informal practices to prepare for Training Camp, which is expected to start in the next week.