It was announced earlier this morning that locked-out players would be allowed to join the Swedish Elite League. Details are over at Matias Strozyk’s Twitter feed.
You have to wonder, with players going to Europe and the minors to keep in shape while the NHL is locked out, does that increase or decrease the amount of leverage that they have?
A number of people, led by the incorrigible Ryan Lambert, have been making the point on Twitter that the National Hockey League and it’s Players’ Association ought to quit posturing and get in a room and negotiate, but I don’t feel that that’s how things work. There’s no clear deadline for when a season would be missed completely, all we know is that the NHL officially pulled the plug on the 2004-05 season in mid-February of 2005.
No side has any significant leverage right now. The owners aren’t missing out on the big part of their revenues that mostly come in the second half of the season once football is over and games start being shown on NBC, and the players haven’t missed any paycheques yet.
But some will collect them. A number of players, stars even, have taken to Europe and the AHL, as noted above, they’ll be allowed to go to Sweden. Does this give the players more leverage since they can effectively say “we don’t need you, we’ll play right here” or can the owners say “yeah, and making 60% of your NHL paycheque”.
Alexander Ovechkin brought up the point when he discussed the plausibility of staying in Russia:
“Of course, I said it before, before I sign contract, that if the league decides to cut our salaries, cut our contracts for what they want I don’t know how many guys are coming back,” Ovechkin said. “We sign contract before. Why they have to cut our salary and our contracts right now? They sign us. [Now they] want to cut it. I think it’s a stupid idea and stupid decision by NHL, [NHL Commissioner Gary] Bettman and the guys who work there.”
I almost hope it happens, but for different reasons than Mike Milbury, just to keep the NHL on its toes.