Thursday, March 31, 2005

Playing Hockey Away From Your Homeland

A good human interest story was written a few days ago about Vincent LeCavalier's time in Russia. It tells how hard he found it to adjust to life in a foreign land he had travelled to to play hockey. It is nice that this story is being written. It is a common story in the NHL. Many players have come to North America from Europe and had some real trouble adjusting to life here. Many people have been traded from one market to another in the NHL and found that adjustment very hard as well. In many of those cases, the results of this adjustment have been seen negatively on the ice.

In a salary capped NHL, it is likely that more and more talented European players won't bother making that adjustment. The financial gain to make it worthwhile will not be there anymore. If the conclusion to this lockout leads to top NHL talents like Peter Forsberg or Markus Naslund leaving to Europe and never coming back, then fans as a whole lose. And I think that is the direction the NHL will be moving.

I'm sorry but your second paragraph was probably the most ignorant assumption I have ever seen written on a hockey blog.

How much was Vincent Lecavalier making in Ak Barz Kazan? A pittance of what he woudl make with or without a salary cap in the National Hockey League....

And what kind of Squalor was Vincent susepted to on the road?

And you're saying that Europeans would rather stay home whne they STILL could make millions in the US, where they would not have to play in such ferral conditions, etc?

If you made the case that players would want to stay home because the Euro is stronger than the Dollar right now -- that would ahve worked. If you mad e the case that, for Political reasons, Europeans would want to stay home because the US is a very wild place right now... THat would have worked.

But to say that European players - who play in Capped leagues in most cases for crying out loud! - would see a cap as a reason to stay home is just plain flat out ignorant and does a poor job trying to further your anti-cap argument.

What I am saying is it is hard to live in a different culture that differs from what you are used to. In the past, players came to the NHL because it has the best hockey and the best money in the world. Many of the Europeans came over with plans to stay only temporarily. As recently as the late 80's and early 90's, NHL stars including Jari Kurri, Mats Naslund and Hakan Loob packed up in mid career to go back to Europe. Maybe they could have made more money in the NHL - and maybe they couldn't, but they made individual decisions that it wasn't worth it for them to stay in the NHL. Today, we see some lesser NHL players including Dmitri Bykov, Oleg Tverdovsky and Maxim Sushinsky doing the same. These players are not giving up the huge contracts that today's stars make, but they decide that they don't think living in North America is worth it for the beneefits the NHL gives them.

Now in a salary capped NHL where there is less money to go around, it seems quite likely that more significant players will feel the same way and stay in or return to Europe instead of coming to North America. It would be a real loss to the NHL if some of its stars (in the article I pick out Forsberg and Naslund) were permanently lost to Europe.

I see this as a very likely consequence of this lockout. And as you point out, the strength of the Euro and political conditions in the US are further factors that make this scenario more likely.

A salary capped NHL will likely leave top players in Europe. If that happens it will hurt ther game presented to the fans.
I suppose the question is how low do you expect NHL salaries will be, specifically for star players, and if you honestly believe that anyone in Europe will be able to come close to that level.

Keep in mind that the NHL is proposing a *minimum* salary that is ten times what the average salary is in Europe.

However, even if this "doomsday" scenario comes to pass, is it really a bad thing? the NHL's "glory days" were a time when there wasnt nearly enough talent to go around. Remove the top euros, and perhaps scoring will rise as the talented players will have more incompetent opponents to deal with.
I would rather see the most talented players in the world playing then see scoring rise. I can see high scoring hockey anytime I want by watching 8 year olds play the local rink.
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