VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) — Max Talbot barnstormed through Quebec, laced up skates in Finland, and played for the Spengler Cup in Switzerland.
Looking for work because of the NHL lockout, Talbot's worldwide hockey tour at last brought him back to the one team he never wanted to leave:
Talbot returned this week to Philadelphia, even as the lockout reached its 111th day with more than 625 lost games. As talks continued in the hunt for a new collective bargaining agreement, veterans like Talbot, defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Jody Shelley are working out at the Flyers' New Jersey training facility, so that when the call does come — if it comes — later this month with the announcement of a shortened season, they'll be ready.
"It's great to be back in the facility, skating with the guys, hopefully thinking you're getting ready for the season," Talbot said Friday. "It's all or nothing now. We all hope. We're not sure."
Talbot's return wasn't because of some inside information the labor dispute was about to be settled. Rather, he bought a townhouse in Philadelphia and had some last-minute financial details to sort out.
He joined a small group of teammates and former Flyers that included Andrej Meszaros, Andreas Nodl and Brian Boucher for a light, 60-minute workout. Most of the core, with a few additions and subtractions, have been skating together since September. All of them would trade drills for coach Peter Laviolette's training camp.
The sides have only one week to reach a deal on a collective bargaining agreement that would allow for a 48-game season — the minimum the NHL has said it will play. Commissioner Gary Bettman set a Jan. 11 deadline for an agreement so the season can begin eight days later.
The NHL and the union met separately with a federal mediator on Friday.
"Hopefully, we can all put this behind us and start playing hockey," Talbot said. "But who knows?"
Talbot needed his passport as much as his stick over the last four months, teaming with Flyers defenseman Bruno Gervais to start a goodwill barnstorming tour in Quebec. His games raised more than $400,000 for various foundations and charity-based groups, mostly helping sick children.
"That was a lot of work," Talbot said. "Pretty challenging, but awesome."
From there, Talbot signed for a five-week stint with Ilves, a Finnish team, before playing with HC Fribourg-Gotteron in Switzerland in the Spengler Cup. The Spengler Cup was first held in 1923 and is the world's oldest pro hockey tournament. He was back in North America on Jan. 2.