NHL Lockout: Would a Crosby-Led World Tour Draw International Interest?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  (L-R) Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins arrive for the NHLPA press conference at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As the tedious lockout continues, many players have gone overseas and are participating in European leagues.

Some of the leagues, like the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), offer a very high level of play. Some of the other European leagues are not as quality-oriented.

However, as players wait for negotiations between the league and the NHLPA to resume in earnest, not all players are going to sign contracts to play temporarily in some of the overseas leagues.

Many players don't want to move—even temporarily—to a country beside the United States or Canada to resume their careers.

But that doesn't mean they won't go to Europe so they can play hockey on a barnstorming tour against other locked-out NHL players.

That's one of the options mentioned by Sidney Crosby's agent Pat Brisson, who organized a tour in 2004 when players were locked out (source: SportingNews.com).

This would give players a chance to show off their skills, perhaps makes some cash and send a message to the NHL owners who are locking the players out. That message being that the players are the game, not the owners.

Brisson organized a tour in which players competed in 10 games over a two-week period. “We had a plane (for the tour) for 17 days. (Now) the cost of the plane and the cost of the insurance may be more,” Brisson told the Sporting News.com. “But the revenues may be higher.”

That kind of tour might be more popular this time around because it would presumably include Crosby, Brisson's top client. Crosby has not yet signed a contract with any of the European leagues, but that option is still open to him.

However, the impact of a European tour by NHL players would not prove much to Gary Bettman and the owners. While it would demonstrate that the players could organize on their own and put on a temporary show, it's not significant enough to offer players anything that would offset their NHL salaries.

However, the fact that NHL players can compete in European leagues while they are being locked out should have an impact on owners.

They won't admit it, but the 133 NHL players (as of Nov. 1) playing for European teams has to cause some concern. The NFL and the NBA went through labor unrest last year and neither of those leagues' players had the same kind of temporary playing options that NHL players have this year.

That could have an impact on the NHL's ability to impose its demands on the NHLPA.