It’s not believed many Predators will play in Europe if there’s a lockout…
- Updated: August 27, 2012
News broke this past weekend that Dynamo Moscow of the KHL would try to sign Alexander Ovechkin were there to be a lockout when the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA expires on September 15.
You may remember in 2004-05, when the NHL became the first major professional sports league in North America to cancel an entire season, many players traveled overseas to lace up their skates. Nashville Predators back-up netminder Chris Mason was one of those players.
“It was kind of making the best of a tough situation,” Mason recalled. “But it was an experience that I really cherish. I got to go live in Norway for a year and I look back fondly on that.”
As he should. Mason suited up for Vålerenga and went on to lead the league in goals against average (1.79). He then backstopped them to a Norwegian Championship title, posting a 10-1 record with a 2.01 GAA during the playoffs.
Other than Norway’s UPC-ligaen, options for locked out NHL players include the KHL in Russia, SM-Liiga in Finland, National League A in Switzerland, Czech Extraliga in the Czech Republic and the DEL in Germany, just to name a few.
It doesn’t appear as if many Predators are going to be headed across the Atlantic to play, however.
“I don’t think you’ll see as many guys (go),” defenseman Kevin Klein said. “During the lockout of 2005, a lot of guys were going there but a lot of European teams weren’t too happy with them. They hear ‘Oh, we might be starting’ so they pack up and leave. But then they go back. It’s kind of a wishy-washy situation and that’s unfair to the guys over there and those teams.”
Predators forward Paul Gaustad agrees.
“They’re not going to want a guy who’s going to be there for two weeks and then be gone,” he said. “It’ll mess up their roster so I think it’s going to be harder for guys, this time, to find jobs that way.”
For that exact reason, the Swedish Elite League has announced that it will “not accept any short-term contracts of locked-out NHLers. Players can only sign for a minimum 1 season” and there will be no escape clauses allowed this time around. The Elitserien had the second-most NHL players (75) among the European leagues in 2004-05. Matter of fact, some Swedish Elite League games were even broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada thanks to the heavy concentration of NHL talent.
But that doesn’t seem to be a viable option this year. At least where the Predators are concerned.
“Right now, I’m going to approach the season like it’s going to start on time,” Gaustad said. “I’m not planning on playing anywhere else.”
Three guys whose season will start on time regardless are Ryan Ellis, Gabriel Bourque and Roman Josi. The three blue chip prospects finished last year with the Predators but are still eligible to play in the AHL if a lockout occurs. The Milwaukee Admirals will gladly use their services for as long as they can.
While there may be some logical exceptions, (Sergei Kostitsyn has trained the past two summers with HC Yunost-Minsk in his native Belarus, for example), Nashville seems to have it’s players committed to a greater cause: a Stanley Cup Championship. Playing elsewhere could jeopardize that greater cause.
“You have to weigh the chances of getting hurt, not getting hurt, the wear and tear on your body and also keeping up with the speed of the game,” Gaustad noted. “I’ll just skate with the guys here (in Nashville).”
Klein echoed that sentiment.
“I’m sure there will be lots of guys who don’t go to Europe,” Klein said. “I would imagine guys will just stay around here. If you’ve got a core group that you can play hard with and train hard with, you won’t lose too much of a step.”
Klein then added a personal reason for not heading overseas.
“I can’t imagine going to Europe. I have a one month old so, right now, I’m just trying to get some sleep.
PHOTO CREDIT: PuckPress.com (permission pending)