If you were an NHL player in the midst of a lockout, you’d have a handful of options with only one thing for certain: at some point you need to be on the ice playing the game, staying sharp and in shape.
Today Pierre Lebrun of ESPN shared this news:
Agent Pat Brisson says clients Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere are both Berlin-bound in German league
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 4, 2012
The German elite league is one of the more highly regarded European leagues, and probably sits alongside the Swedish elite league in second behind the KHL, in terms of quality of play.
To be clear about one thing, that’s not the same as “quality of life.” I’ve heard many, many (many) accounts of scary stories from guys who gave Russia’s best league a go.
There are other options, of course. You could go play in the Swiss league, enjoy some beautiful scenery, have a high quality of life, and play against lesser players (god is it fitting that Thornton and Nash choose to play there, but that’s a post for another day).
So what’s the best thing to do: always pit yourself against the world’s toughest talent, make the most money, and wring the most out of yourself, or take the year as a gift, not abuse your body as much, have some fun and enjoy some of the finest countryside Europe has to offer? The latter might make you better down the road, and help your performance when the NHL resumes on November 15th (I mean, I dunno, I’m just throwing numbers out here). Rest is key, and you can always sharpen back up – hence why some great NHLers don’t touch ice until August.
Obviously it comes down to your priorities, your personal situation and personal interests, but I know a couple things: my own, and what I’ve heard from other hockey friends around the world about certain European leagues.
If I were a highly-desired NHL player, I would choose the following five leagues in the following order – obviously your opinions are welcome in the comments, assuming they’re exactly the same as mine otherwise YOU’RE WRONG.
(For the purposes of everyone’s understanding, I’m going to refer to the different leagues by how we know them, because saying that I’d like to play in the Elitserien means basically nothing to most people.)
1. Swiss Elite League – Yes, it’s true: I’m far too much like Joe Thornton and Rick Nash in terms of mindset (getting to “grr” isn’t easy), and not enough like them in terms of hockey ability (and raw size). “The NHL season is a grind” is among the clichiest of clichés, but like most, there’s something to it. 82 games plus playoffs is vicious, and if I had a mid-career chance to just let shit heal, dominate a few games (man scoring is fun), and see a part of the world I always wanted to, SOLD. Maybe I’m not competitive enough.
Okay, I’m not competitive enough.
2. Swedish Elite League – A lot of things that appeal to me about playing in Switzerland appeal to me about playing in Sweden. A place I’d love to visit, plenty of english speakers, and a high quality of living. The hockey would be great and keep you sharp, but still wouldn’t be as physically demanding as the NHL. Also, blondes. Blondes everywhere (oh crap we just got internet in our apartment, brunette wife may be reading this).
3. German elite league – Good hockey, solid pay, great location, Oktoberfest, beer, beerfest, the festival of beer, chocolate.
4. Finnish elite league: Basically, at this point, I’ve made it clear that I think I’d like Scandanavia, and I’m just fighting going to the KHL.
5. Russian elite league (KHL): It’s hard to deny that making more money is cooler than making less money. Playing in the world’s best (active) hockey league is an honour, challenging, and will make you a better player down the road (assuming you’re durable). At some point…at some point I would say yes, and go play in Russia.