Despite lockout in the NHL, the Malones can talk

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It might seem, at first blush, to be a clear violation of NHL guidelines.

After all, the league has instructed employees of its teams to avoid communicating with members of the NHL Players' Association until the lockout that has shut down the league since mid-September is over.

There's no exemption for people who are blood relatives and who, say, might end up seated across from one another at a Thanksgiving table.

Too bad, because Ryan Malone, the former Penguins left winger who now plays for Tampa Bay, and Greg Malone, who is the Lightning's head pro scout, would qualify for one.

Now, an NHL official confirmed that the regulations apply only to discussions of "official business," so Greg Malone isn't in danger of being fined if he asks his son to, say, pass the mashed potatoes.

Which might be about as close as they get to crossing any lines the league has drawn.

"The only thing we really talk about is that we both want hockey to start," Ryan Malone said Tuesday after participating in an informal workout with some former teammates at Southpointe. "I don't think we know any significant secrets to tell each other."

No, most of that kind of information can now be found in New York, where the league and union are scheduled to re-start negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement today.

They met for the first time in eight days Monday evening, and the NHLPA apparently spent much of Tuesday working on the comprehensive economic proposal the league requested.

What the union offers -- or, more to the point, how the NHL responds to that offer -- figures to have a profound impact on the prospects of a settlement anytime soon. The key points of contention appear to be the division of revenues -- the NHL wants to link the players' share to growth and make it a set percentage, while the players have sought a firm figure -- and issues pertaining to the structure and length of contracts.

At this point, if there's significant optimism on either side that an agreement is close, it's guarded. So guarded that it's under lock-and-key and hidden in a dungeon.

"It doesn't, obviously, look good," Malone said. "We just have to wait until we feel there's a fair deal out there."

Malone broke into the NHL with the Penguins in 2003-04, and is a veteran of the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, much of which he spent playing for teams in Finland, Switzerland and Italy. Coping with this shutdown, he said, is "a little easier," perhaps because he has financial security that wasn't present eight years ago. Neither were the two young sons who accompanied him Tuesday to Southpointe.

"Last time, I didn't have any kids, so I got to tour around Europe, which was pretty cool," Malone said.

He is among the players who have joined Penguins center Sidney Crosby for workouts in Vail, Colo., and Dallas this fall, but also has spent time in Tampa. That's where he picked up his blackened right eye, courtesy of a high stick during a practice organized by Lightning players.

Although he has missed three paychecks this season, the seven-year, $31.5 million deal he accepted in Tampa in 2008 provides an obvious financial cushion for Malone. He's aware that not everyone affected by the lockout is so fortunate.

"People who love the game and people who really depending on hockey for their job or their life ... it affects more people than we think," he said. "That's what hurts the most."

Malone looked entirely at ease with his old teammates and, for that matter, on the ice where he spent so much time earlier in his career.

"Especially in this rink, it [brings back] the high school days for me," he said.

He expects to be back there again this morning, even though this extended lockout occasionally saps his motivation.

"It's kind of hard to push yourself every day when you don't really see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Malone plans to remain here until Saturday and seems genuinely happy to be back in familiar surroundings.

"It's always great to come back to Pittsburgh," he said. "It feels like home."

Especially when he's allowed to speak with his dad.

NOTE -- The group of Penguins who hold workouts at Southpointe generally take Wednesdays off, but at least a few are expected to skate today. Their usual Thursday and Friday sessions will not be held this week because of the holiday.

mobilehome - penguins

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published November 21, 2012 5:00 AM


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