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Lemieux on shortened season: “The games were all like playoff games”

Dec 14, 2012, 12:39 PM EDT

Lemieux Conn

The last time the NHL had a lockout-shortened season was in 1994-95, when the league and players’ union brokered a new CBA in time to complete a 48-game regular season.

Ex-Devils forward Claude Lemieux — one of the stars of that year — remembers it well.

“The games were all like playoff games,” he told the Denver Post. “You knew you couldn’t fall off the wagon much, so it was definitely more intense for the players and the fans.”

Lemieux’s take is interesting given what he did in the playoffs.

After an average regular season — he finished seventh on the team in scoring with 19 points in 45 games — Lemieux caught fire in the postseason, scoring 13 goals in 20 games en route to winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe.

The reason people are talking ’94-95 lately is because of what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said following last Thursday’s failed negotiations in New York — if the 2012-13 season is to have any integrity at all, it’ll need to have a minimum of 48 games.

Here’s more on that, from the Post’s Adrian Dater:

The NHL’s 1994-95 lockout was over Jan. 11, 1995, and nine days later the season began. That year, the NHL extended the end of the regular season from its intended mid-to-late April finish to May 3, so teams didn’t have to play as many games on back-to-back nights as the NBA did.

It’s possible that could happen again.

Lemieux said the shortened season wasn’t as physically demanding as most figured, and it served as an excellent tuneup for the postseason (especially for him, it seemed.)

“I don’t remember it being very taxing on the body, any more than if it had been a full season,” Lemieux said. “We condensed things by maybe a couple weeks shorter than they would have been, but it wasn’t bad.”

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