NHL Lockout Talk: Are the Players Being Hypocrites by Playing in Europe?

Brad LeClairCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals follows through on a shot against the New York Rangers in the third period of Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 9, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

We're only five days into the lockout, and already a mass exodus of players to Europe has began.

Notable players like Rick Nash, Mark Streit and Joe Thornton are playing in Switzerland; Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar are playing in the KHL; Jaromir Jagr in the Czech Republic and Anze Kopitar in Sweden.

With the lockout and talks at a standstill, the players deciding to play in Europe should be viewed as a sign. They don't see an agreement on the horizon and are setting up shop on the picket lines—or in this case, across the Atlantic Ocean.

While I've been a known players supporter in this lockout, I still have not liked the idea of them going to Europe to play for a variety of reasons.


Reason 1

To start off, the NHL players are locked out because the players don't want to see their salary decreased and the share of hockey-related revenue decreased. As a result of this, the owners locked out the players.

In an effort to show the owners they mean business, the players decided to go off to Europe to play for the season and stay in shape.

While it's good they want to stay in shape, the majority of the players are signing far cheaper contracts than they would be getting paid in the NHL, and to combat problems, the European teams need to pay for insurance, which is always costly.

I just don't get why they'd travel away from their families to play for less. They do get escrow, which should help them alleviate some of the financial loss of this, but still, it just doesn't make sense.

If the players go to Europe, the IIHF should have a transfer agreement in place. You come here, you stay here for the season. There will not be any more out-clauses during the season.

While the KHL has strict rules for including NHL players in their league, not all leagues are under the same set of rules.


Reason 2

How would they feel if there was a league better than the NHL, and players would come to the NHL and play, thus taking the jobs of many players?

I personally think it would be a cold day in hell before that would ever happen, but hypothetically speaking, the thought of this happening to NHL players would hurt them.

There was enough of an outrage over Alex Radulov coming back to the NHL—imagine if 100-plus players came and replaced them. Radulov now sits quietly in Russia playing in the KHL after his brief second stint with the Nashville Predators ended abruptly.

Because the NHL players want to stay in shape, Euro League players are either losing their jobs or are are sitting out while NHL players fill their need for something to do.

Former AHLer Brandon Reid, in an interview with Slam Sports, said "It's really not fair to the guys who will be benched or lose their jobs, as well as for the teams that can't afford the NHL guys."

I couldn't agree more with what Reid said. For the small paychecks they get in Europe, for someone who makes 10 times more than they do to come in and steal their jobs, while their livelihood is at stake, just does not seem right.


Reason 3

For an NHLPA that is supposed to be united and together, with plenty of their membership heading overseas while the lockout is in full swing, just says to me, "I don't care, just get a deal done Mr. Donald Fehr, I'm going to play some puck elsewhere while you hash it out."

Personally, with the way negotiations are heading, I thought the more players around, the better.

This tactic won't scare the owners, because the players are insured. If they were not, maybe, just maybe this tactic of playing overseas may work on the owners.

The owners will be getting their money back if the player gets hurt, but will the players ever get the money back from this lockout? Highly doubtful.

The only good thing to come out of this is that the NHL is getting more global by this move.

The players are going to Europe, and their presence will invigorate the leagues, drawing more fans out to already loud and noisy arena atmospheres.

Mark Streit, who is playing in Switzerland, will soon realize he may never want to leave after playing in front of 8,000 raucous fans, as opposed to 10,000 scattered fans that are quiet in Long Island.

Simply put, to end the players from going to Europe, there should not be an out-clause, simple as that. If they are going to Europe, it's to play for that team, not as a way of staying in shape. They can easily do that renting the ice for an hour in their local cities or working out in their home gyms.

An angry, frustrated NHL fan signs out.

Thanks for reading.