NHL players flocking to Europe a reality of lockout

NHL players flocking to Europe a reality of lockout
September 21, 2012, 3:22 pm
Share This Post

Some might find it scary that Bruins players are beginning to scatter to the four corners of the Earth or at least Europe, anyway -- to play hockey while the NHL figures itself out.

Or perhaps its simply just things getting real with an NHL lockout that clearly looks like its going to wipe out the first few months of the season.

But the signings of David Krejci and Andrew Ference to Czech Republic teams in recent days and more immediately Thursdays news that Tyler Seguin has signed on with a Swiss League team are more a function were not going to see NHL hockey before December.

It should tell hockey fans that the players dont see NHL hockey coming back to North America for at least a few months as the sides continue to freeze each other out in formal negotiations.

The exodus to Europe is more necessity for players that require game intensity to remain sharp and keep ready for the NHL season when it finally does open. Ference explained that dynamic earlier this week to CSNNE.com after learning from the last NHL lockout.

During the last lockout you saw some guys that stayed behind when others went to Europe or played in the AHL," Ference said. "Those guys fell a step behind the other players when the NHL got started again, and they had a really difficult time catching up to the pace. Im in the last year of my deal and I cant afford to just sit around and allow the intensity to dial down in my workouts.

Its also a statement of leverage to the NHL that many of the worlds best players have other options. They can make money playing a kids game elsewhere if the league decides to keep padlocks in place until the NHLPA budges on the 20 percent salary rollbacks that have been proposed thus far.

The NHL wants to crush players, I think, said one source on the playersNHLPA side of things. It could get real ugly, and damage to the NHL Brand could be huge.

What young European or Russian Player will come over to punitive Rookie contract (5 years mandatory) when he can stay over there and do well? Maybe something good will develop but I see no sign of optimism at this point.

Dennis Seidenberg has also now officially signed with Mannheim in Germany as well, and will similarly be headed to his home country in Europe. Zdeno Chara wasnt in any hurry to head back to Slovakia with his daughter enrolled in Boston schools for this semester. But the 6-foot-9 captain is rumored to already have something in place with HC Slovan Bratislava to reunite with former Bs teammate Miroslav Satan -- when he does decide to head back to his home country as well.

On Friday it was announced the Swedish Elite League would also begin allowing NHL players on its rosters, so theres yet another option for the players currently skating circles in their NHL cities.

Theres always the chance any of these players could sustain injuries once the adrenaline levels go up in the European games, but they wont be paid by their NHL clubs if they come back to Boston unable to play. Its the reason why each player takes out a pricey insurance policy (at a cost of roughly 10,000-25,000 per 1 million of their contract according to one US underwriter that furnished nearly 100 policies during the 2004-05 lockout) prior to suiting up for their first European game

So thats probably going to keep many of them from diving to block shots at any given moment.

For many of these players its a rare chance to play at home when theyve been traveling to North America away from friends and family for their entire lives. For players like Ference and Seguin its similar to a student taking a semester abroad in Europe: a different experience in an exotic locale where theyll be furnished with free apartments, food, cars and other fringe benefits while also getting paid to play.

There should be a scary element to life going on for NHL players while their league goes under water due to pure, unadulterated greed, but thats the Russian Roulette game Gary Bettman and the owners are playing with their fans. Unlike potential work stoppages by the NFL and Major League Baseball, elite hockey players have options when the best league in the world locks their doors.

The players are simply exercising those options with the hope theyll be back in their familiar environs in time for the Holidays.