NHL Lockout: Alex Ovechkin Is Dreaming If He Thinks Players Won't Return to NHL

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2012

Alex Ovechkin leads a cadre of NHL players who are competing in the KHL.
Alex Ovechkin leads a cadre of NHL players who are competing in the KHL.Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

The NHL lockout is a cold slap in the face to anyone who makes a living from their connection to the league.

Players who are used to collecting millions per season will have a hard time adjusting to payless pay days.

As a result, finding a side job is a good idea.

NHL players are a bit luckier than many of their counterparts in the other major league sports. Players who are being locked out can go overseas and play in any one of a number of professional leagues. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia is the best of those leagues, but players can play in Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Germany.

While there are a few alternatives for NBA players in Europe and South America, there are no real alternatives for baseball players and certainly nothing for NFL players.

Having playing options strengthens the NHLPA's position and gives the players an option if they don't like the way they are being treated by the NHL.

And the players certainly don't like the way they are being treated.

Alex Ovechkin is playing in the KHL, and he has been joined by stars Evgeni Malkin, Zdeno Chara, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pekka Rinne.

While playing in the overseas league helps players with their financial plight, it is not the same as playing in the NHL.

Ovechkin said that players who have opted for the KHL may not be back in the NHL when the lockout comes to an end.

Before suiting up with the Moscow Dynamo (Dynamo Moscow, if you want to get technical), Ovechkin used a conference call with the Washington Times and Washington Post to say that NHL players may not return to the league if salaries end up getting slashed.

If the league decides to cut our salaries and cut our contracts for what they want, I don’t know how many guys will be coming back. We signed contracts before, and why they have to cut our salaries and our contracts right now? They sign us. [Now they] want to cut it, I think it’s a stupid idea and a stupid decision by the NHL, [commissioner Gary] Bettman and the guys who work there.

That's a solid threat, but it is unrealistic to think that players who have earned NHL opportunities won't come back to the league once the lockout is over.

However, Ovechkin and other Russian-born players may be less likely to return if the league does not agree to a break in the 2013-14 schedule to let players participate in the Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia (source: ESPN.com).

Ovechkin and Malkin have said that they will play in the Sochi Olympics whether the league breaks or not. However, combining salary slashing with a decision to not break the schedule and participate in the Olympics could keep some of the more "radical" players from returning to the NHL.

But the issue at hand right now is finding common ground between the NHL and the Players' Association.

When Bettman and Donald Fehr finally decide enough is enough and come to an agreement, players will come back to the NHL.

Ovechkin may be raising the flag for a mass defection, but that won't happen unless Fehr agrees to massive cuts.

That almost certainly will not happen.