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San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton signed with HC Davos of the Swiss National League A.
Depending on your point of view, the Swedish Elite League’s decision to not let NHL players in on short-term contracts was either incredibly admirable or hypocritical.
It forced a player of Anze Kopitar’s caliber to sign a contract with division-two team Mora Ishockeyclubb, thereby preserving, at least temporarily (as the decision was eventually overturned by an anti-trust ruling), one SEL player’s job.
Of course, the signing (which stemmed from Kopitar wanting to play with his brother) not only means his competition will be that much weaker, but also a job taken away from a less-skilled Swedish hockey player, who, chances are, doesn’t make nearly as much as the $6.4 million Kopitar did last season. Call it a hunch.
Now, with the decision reversed, the floodgates will open to an even greater extent, with 48 players already having signed elsewhere as of last Thursday.
Admittedly, players like Jesse Joensuu (playing for Assat in the Finnish SM-liiga) and Kaspars Daugavins (Dinamo Riga in the Kontinental Hockey League) are fringe NHLers, but what about the Jason Spezzas and Joe Thorntons of the world? What’s their excuse? Unless Alan Eagleson is their accountant, it can’t be a need for money.
Keeping sharp in the event the lockout ends suddenly is somewhat understandable, but it’s actually tactics like this that make one wonder just how seriously players take this whole process, let alone their profession as a whole.
Is no one prepared to offer anything besides acknowledgement in passing that players overseas have rights too? There are plenty of ways to stay active without stealing someone else’s job that aren’t purely designed to give the NHL the finger.
Sure, it may seem like the players are gaining leverage, but generally speaking, NHL teams are businesses on the side for the owners. The revenue each brings in is all nice and good, but they can live without it.
All the players going overseas is doing is delaying the inevitable, causing them to lose focus on the matter at hand and making life more difficult for their peers.
One canned response to how NHLers feel about the ramifications of them taking their talents overseas is they feel bad but they’re hockey players too. Unfortunately, those who offer that excuse are conveniently leaving out the “rich” part…oddly enough, an apt term to describe their whole argument.