SBD/September 24, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 9: Influx Of NHL Players Already Heading To Play In Europe

Ovechkin last week began playing for the KHL's Dynamo Moscow
After one week of the NHL lockout, more than 60 NHLers "have signed or agreed to play in European leagues," according to Jeff Klein of the N.Y. TIMES. That is a "pretty significant number -- but a far cry from the 200 who signed to play overseas after one week of the lockout" in '04-05. This time around "a full-season lockout is not expected." The "feeling among the players is that neither they nor the owners want to kill the golden goose, and some kind of compromise will be found that allows play to resume after a few weeks" (NYTIMES.com, 9/24). ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang cited reports out of Sweden that a "recent antitrust ruling may open up the Swedish Elite League, Elitserien, to locked-out players looking to play in Europe." The SEL was "previously closed off to NHL players during the lockout, though that policy may now be subject to change." SEL is "regarded in the hockey community as one of the premier European leagues" (ESPNNY.com, 9/21). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski noted NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr appeared on Vancouver's CKST-AM Friday and was asked about the "number of players leaving for Europe before the NHL regular season had been affected by the lockout." The message to players was that the "lockout was inevitable, the season's at risk again, so don't waste your time waiting for a resolution that never came seven years ago." Wyshynski wrote it "does help that NHL players have a few more options this time" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/23). In Arizona, Sarah McLellan wrote, "Is anyone else surprised some of the superstars have already secured European contracts and are playing overseas? A day after the lockout started players were already making plans. I can understand some lesser stars wanting to make the move to earn a paycheck, but the likes of Rick Nash, Joe Thornton and Alex Ovechkin are definitely not struggling in that department" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/22). Agent Justin Duberman on Saturday said, "There is a lot of risk in going over. There's a lot of great things about going over as well from a hockey standpoint, but you have to make sure you protect yourself from an insurance standpoint to make sure it's a great opportunity." He added, "As you get older, the disability rates get higher. It gets expensive, and I mean it gets really expensive" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/23).

PLAYERS WAITING IT OUT: Devils G Martin Brodeur on Thursday said, "I've actually been part of four work stoppages now." He added, "I counted it up the other day, it's going to be well over 100 games that I lost in the NHL because of work stoppages." Brodeur: "I'm going to wait it out until October, when they're going to start slashing games, and try to have a sense of where it's going." He added, "When you always try to bully somebody, it's kind of tough. It's been three times now. ... It's tough when they use the same things to always get what they want, but again, they're in their rights to do it" (ESPN.com, 9/21). Lightning coach Guy Boucher on Friday said, "I'd be a liar to say I'm not afraid. Everybody is afraid" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/22). NHL player agent Neil Abbot said, "I do believe we're in for a long haul. I don't think this lockout is going to end anytime soon." He added, "This is as mean-spirited as I've ever seen it coming out of New York" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/24). Sharks D Dan Boyle on Friday said he thinks NHL execs “want us to miss some paychecks” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 9/21).

GOING AT IT ALONE: In Raleigh, Chip Alexander noted Hurricanes players "skating Friday at Raleigh Center Ice had a different look." Instead of "jerseys with the Hurricanes logo on the front, the players wore jerseys with the NHL Players Association logo and #THEPLAYERS on the back." Hurricanes D Jay Harrison said, "It's just something that keeps us unified. It's a union initiative to brand ourselves. That's what we represent, that's who we support" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/22). In Nashville, Josh Cooper reported the Predators players have hired Shawn Allard as their coach. Allard last season worked for the Predators “as a skills consultant, but because he’s an independent contractor his current role with the players is not a violation of the lockout.” The players are “paying him to coach them” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/23).

IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE? In Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote Gary Bettman from the business end has “mostly succeeded in his role” as NHL Commissioner. Where he has “failed miserably is with advancing the game and the league itself.” The damage done from “every fight between players and owners may not translate to season tickets or television ratings, but what it has done is take the homespun nature of the NHL to remove it forever.” This was a league “different than the others, with players more accessible, with teams in touch with their communities.” But that is “going, if it’s not completely gone already” (TORONTO SUN, 9/23). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Roy MacGregor wrote, “Don’t be fooled -- this time around isn’t even remotely the same as last.” At least “not for Canadians, who continue to use the word lockout as if it has the same meaning in 2012 as it did in 2004.” In ’04 Canadians called it “cost certainty.” Today the “only thing an outsider can see in the squabbling” over hockey’s $3.3B pot is “greed certainty” (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/23). In Denver, Terry Frei writes under the header, “Gary Bettman Doesn’t Deserve All Blame For NHL Lockout” (DENVER POST, 9/24). In Vancouver, Ed Willes wrote the “gulf between the haves and the have-nots in the NHL is now so wide, the system has become unworkable.” Willes: “How can a system fix that? The short answer is it can’t, which is why we’re locked into this cycle of bitter negotiations and work stoppages.” Until the NHL “makes some hard decisions about where it operates, it’s going to be the same sad song played over and over again” (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/22).
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