A couple days back I wrote a piece on why Ilya Kovalchuk and the rest of the NHLers who played in the KHL during the lockout should play in the K’s AHL Star-Game, simply explaining that one more game of shinny isn’t a big deal, and it’d be a nice thank you to the fans who supported them over there during the season so far. I still believe that (and it sounds like Datsyuk will join Kovy in the ASG), but that’s about where my compassion for a guy like Ilya Kovalchuk ends.

I’m not unsympathetic to foreign players (read this excellent piece by “Kety Beyker” of Grantland for some reasons why), but Ilya Kovalchuk standing behind the following…

…makes me uneasy.

From RussianHockeyFans.com

I get that it would be really hard to start a season, let alone one in your home country, then leave the guys you’ve formed relationships with partway through. But this situation didn’t come as a surprise. Every NHLer who went to play overseas was aware that this could and very likely would happen.

So to thumb your nose at a league that signed you two summers ago to a one hundred million dollar contract is preposterous. Again, it’s hard to leave your current teammates, but what about the guys you went to war with the previous season on the way to the Stanley Cup Final? Are they secondary? How are they going to feel when you show up after having been dragged kicking and screaming back to the US?

Patrick Elias, when asked how he feels about Kovalchuk’s hesitancy to re-join his fellow Devils simply said: “We’re all supposed to return on Sunday, right?” As in, what would make him any different?

This post from Pro Hockey Talk has that quote, along with this from Johan Hedberg, who’s been in contact with him, on why Kovalchuk might stay:

“I see plenty of reasons, really. I think this goes back to more a moral thing too. I don’t know if I want to go there. …But I hope and I think he’s going to be with us.”

“A moral thing?” It’s farcical that somehow one player would feel that they were morally wronged in the whole process, like somehow the rest of the players aren’t on that guy’s level of principle. Everyone else was able to see it was business, not not some personal shot. That doesn’t mean they somehow liked it.

I’d be writing the same thing if this were a French player, a Dutch player, an American or a Canadian. When a player signs a contract, you know it’s about the money, but you hope there’s some commitment to the team and the direction too (and you expect them to honour it regardless).

Kovy’s resistance to come back immediately (even though I think he will, again, kicking and screaming), makes me wonder how much he cares about the team he committed to for the rest of his career. I bet Lamoriello, and some of his teammates, aren’t exactly thrilled with the signs they’ve seen from one of their “captains” over the past week.

Comments (2)

  1. For more quotes from the Devils, see: http://blogs.northjersey.com/blogs/fireice/comments/most_devils_but_not_all_ok_with_kovalchuk_sticking_around_for_khl_all-star_game/

    The team consensus seems to be: “Ilya’s a nice guy, trying to make everyone in his homeland happy, tough situation, but he’ll be here”

    If you’re Lou, how do you turn this into a big deal? You have this guy signed for just shy of eternity, do you really want to make the relationship hostile over him being late to camp by a day or two? I think it sucks letting some guys get treated differently, but it is something you have to consider, right? NJ needs him.

  2. Ilya is in a good shape right now with tons of game-practice, unlike most of other devils.

    Generally speaking, in the beginning of this short season, expecting those travelers from Europe to shine. Then, others will take over, as arrived from Europe players will start getting tired in such intense NHL short season schedule. Then, the fun will start: NHL playoffs…

    Very interesting season is underway…

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