The NHL lockout has wiped out training camp and more than a month of games in the 2012-13 season, but readers can keep up with the Penguins with an occasional question-and-answer session. Today, we catch up with Brooks Orpik, who is spending the lockout in his offseason home in the Boston area. It was an eventful summer for Orpik, 32, a defenseman who got married and didn't have abdominal surgery after having such an operation -- one on each side -- the previous two offseasons.
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Question: You were 24 during the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season and did not play anywhere. How does this lockout, for you, compare with the last one?
Answer: I guess the biggest difference is just going into it last time you knew it was going to be at least half the season long. They were telling you that worst-case scenario it could be a couple of years if we really stuck to our guns and went against having a cap. This time, everyone was so optimistic with how successful the league has been. Guys thought that maybe we'd miss a little bit of training camp but that something would get done. We thought there was no way we would miss games and this time.
Q: You have been practicing with other locked-out NHL players at your old stomping grounds, Boston College, at rival Boston University and elsewhere. What is that group like?
A: That's one of the good things about the area. There's so many guys, whether they play for the Bruins or a handful of other guys from this area or guys [like me] who settled down here through college or relationships or whatnot. It really is a good group. We always kind of have a similar group here for August before I come to Pittsburgh. A lot of it is the same guys. And the [NHL Players' Association] has done a good job. They can put you in touch with whoever runs the skate in a certain city. We gave a lot of thought to going to Pittsburgh, but I think if I was in Pittsburgh, it would drive me more crazy not playing. It kind of takes my mind off of it a little bit.
Q: What are those practices like?
A: We've had Mike Grier, who retired a year ago, who has been nice enough to come out and organize and run all the practices for us. Every day's a little bit different. We usually have at least 10 guys. Those are on the bad days. We had the whole Bruins team there before late September, then some went to Europe. We do some type of drills for 40 minutes or so and some type of little game.
Q: How are you feeling physically?
A: I feel a lot better than I did the last couple summers when I had surgery. Looking back, I probably rushed myself after those surgeries. Now I'm at the point where I don't have to think about it that much. I do just preventative stuff. I'm beyond the point where I worry about it. Besides those couple of things, I've been lucky.
Q: What's one of the funniest hockey-related moments you can recall?
A: I had Marc Bergevin [now Montreal general manager] as a teammate my rookie year. He provided my entertainment. He was really big into his props, too. He might come out for practice with a wig on under his helmet. He was probably the funniest guy I played with. We were in Edmonton once in the hotel. They had a Christmas display. The bus was late, and we were bored, so he went and grabbed one of the presents under the tree of the display, wrote out a note, left it for [then-general manager] Craig Patrick at the front desk. I don't know what's in those things.
Q: What's your favorite meal?
A: It's homemade, a healthy version of chicken parmesan. It has a layer or prosciutto and a layer of eggplant. The wife makes it. We have it probably once a month.