BRANDON — The way Steven Stamkos sees it, he and his locked-out teammates are "just a bunch of guys playing hockey on the ice."
In that sense there might not be much to read into the players, during informal workouts at the Ice Sports Forum, wearing their Lightning practice jerseys inside out.
On the other hand, given the adversarial relationship growing between the players and league, the symbolism is difficult to miss.
"We're united," defenseman Sami Salo said. "We're standing together."
Eight of the 17 Lightning players who skated Wednesday — Stamkos, Salo, Marty St. Louis, Victor Hedman, Teddy Purcell, Mathieu Garon, Brendan Mikkelson and Pierre-Cedric Labrie — flipped their jerseys to show only the stitching around the logo.
Similar sartorial choices have been reported among players in St. Louis, Vancouver and Montreal.
Not that everyone sees it as a hard-core protest.
"I just did it because the other guys were doing it," Purcell said. "I really didn't think too much ahead of it."
What he and his teammates have fretted over is that Lightning training camp was supposed to open Friday and the first preseason game was supposed to be Sept. 26 until both were shelved when the league on Wednesday canceled all preseason games through Sept. 30.
With no formal negotiations scheduled between the league and the players association, it's unclear when the season might begin.
"Like a lost puppy," Purcell said of his feelings. "We're all in the locker room (saying) 'Wow this (stinks). When is this going to stop?' It's hard to plan for something when you don't know when the resolution is going to come."
For now, players said they will continue skating at the Ice Sports Forum, renting the ice for $350 an hour, dressing in a cramped locker room and lugging their equipment to and from the rink.
As for wearing jerseys inside out, Stamkos said, "Obviously, we're not playing for Tampa right now. I don't know if there's a lot of meaning behind it but I guess if you … noticed it and can write about it, I guess there is some meaning to it."
"We'll see how it progresses," Salo said. "Maybe we'll get more guys at the next practice."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.