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6 Reasons Sidney Crosby Should Go Play in Europe During NHL Lockout

Steve SilvermanFeatured Columnist IVDecember 27, 2016

6 Reasons Sidney Crosby Should Go Play in Europe During NHL Lockout

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    The idea of NHL players going overseas to play professional hockey is probably disconcerting to a number of fans.

    While players could get injured playing in Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic or Germany, there are several benefits to continuing their hockey careers, even if it is in an unfamiliar uniform.

    But what of the game's top superstars? In particular, Sidney Crosby.

    Some Penguins fans may start to shake at the idea that Crosby would go across the ocean to play in Russia with teammate Evgeni Malkin, largely because of the concussion-related problems he has had in the past.

    However, a decision by Crosby to participate could have several positive ramifications.

Leverage with NHL

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    When the NHL locked out its players on Sept. 15, it prevented the players from going back to work for their teams.

    When you are not working, you are not earning a living.

    However, when other opportunities exist to earn money, the message that the league is trying to send to the players by locking them out gets obfuscated.

    Despite the effort of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league's owners, players can still make a living playing professional hockey.

    The salaries are not as good and the conditions may not be as ideal, but players can still make good money playing hockey.

    When one of those players is Sidney Crosby, it sends a profound message to the NHL. It may make them realize that they are damaging themselves and the league a lot more than they are damaging NHL players by locking them out.

Sharpen Skills

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    Sidney Crosby is probably the best player in the world when he is healthy.

    He has worked hard to get where he is. When it comes to natural talent, he is probably not in the same category with all-time greats like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. However, when it comes to getting the most out of his talent, Crosby is probably at the top of the list.

    But as strong a player as Crosby is, his skills will not get better unless he is playing the game and working at it.

    The better the competition he plays against, the higher his skill level will be. He needs to play to keep his skills sharp.

Joy of the Game

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    Perhaps it's the point of reference that most hockey fans have, but there is a real joy when it comes to playing the game compared to other sports.

    Football players rarely refer to their sport as "fun." Baseball players often talk about their season-long activities as a "grind."

    But all one has to do is look at what happens on the ice when a player like Sidney Crosby makes a perfect pass to a teammate, and then gets a return pass and fires the puck into the net.

    The arms are raised. The smile is wide. There are roars of approval from the crowd. It is a moment of sheer joy.

    There are many moments like this in a season, and they become quite addictive.

Popularize the Sport

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    When a player like Sidney Crosby plays in a league like the KHL, it almost certainly pumps up the sport of ice hockey.

    There's plenty of interest in hockey already and the KHL is a thriving league. However, when the best player in the world goes to Russia to play in that league, it can only intensify the interest that is already there.

    His participation would add to the popularity of the sport overseas.

Conditioning

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    Disciplined players will work out hard in the offseason so that they can stay in shape when the season begins again.

    Many players find that their self-discipline is tested during the offseason because they also want to enjoy their time away from the game.

    This holds true during a work stoppage as well. Players may not be able to play during a lockout, but they have to remain in good condition.

    Participating in an overseas league can help a player like Sidney Crosby stay in top condition. He might be able to condition himself without playing, but it's a lot easier when he is competing.

European Influence

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    Generations ago, the NHL was played in one of two basic ways.

    Skilled and fast-skating teams like the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings would use the direct pass forward to advance the puck. This is called head-manning the puck.

    Other teams like the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would dump the puck into the corners and then chase it down to try to make a play by either getting to the puck first or forcing the defense into an error.

    However, North American hockey players were exposed to the Soviet style of hockey in the Summit Series in 1972 (source: CNNSI.com). Since that time, Canadian and American players and coaches have learned that there are many other ways to play the game.

    Crosby knows many of them, but actually playing in a league would help him learn other systems even more effectively and make him a better player.

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