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 2003-04 Heads Up Archive
 Locked Out and Never Coming Back!
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Posted - 10/10/2003 :  00:06:12  Show Profile
Contributed by: Fred Lajeunesse.

What if? Nobody likes "what ifs", right? But as I have covered the possible lockout at the end of this season in last week’s article, it just seemed fitting to talk about what would happen in the event of such lockout. From players moving back to the old continent to take in some European hockey action, or simply playing here in North America for the defunct hockey league WHA, things could become interesting. Furthermore, what will become of the NHL if players are to stay in their respective leagues? What about the veterans who have a year or two left in their leagues? Exciting topics, right?

First, we have seen in the past few years the resurgence of the Russian Hockey League, or “The Super League” as it is called in Russia. In fact, many players that could help hockey teams in the NHL have now signed with teams from the Russian League. One of them is Oleg Tverdorsky (Avangard Omsk). In most cases, players sign a 3-year deal but are only committed to the first year of their contracts. The player can then decide to stay for the rest of their contract duration of pursue other options, therefore enabling them to return to the NHL if and when the interest from an NHL club is shown. This definitely shows that the NHL is the preferred destination for hockey players.

The way I see it, quite a few European players will make their way back home in the event of a lockout. Now the question is, will those players sign a contract that locks them in and never return back to the NHL? Some will probably sign contracts such as Tverdorsky, but many will commit to the Russian League. Why not? But the deciding factors will be whether the Russian teams will play hard ball and make the players stay in the league, and will they be able to afford the players? Some NHL players have been offered up to $1 million/per season to move their hockey skills to the Russian League. With Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich lurking around with his big money, who knows what can happen? He’s built quite a team in the English Premiership League. (Chelsea) The guy spent CAN $220 million to improve his team. And with most players nowadays more interested in cashing in than with winning, something might just give.

Now to the WHA option. The WHA became officially a league in 1971. The NHL never thought anything of the WHA until they signed players for million dollars contracts. They started franchises away from the big NHL cities, but mostly in big markets such as LA and, of course, Edmonton. Most of you will remember the WHA from the players who played in that now defunct league: Bobby Hull and Wayne Gretzky. What we see now is the WHA trying to capitalize on a possible lockout, especially a long one. Who’s the commissioner for this new league? Non other than the great Bobby Hull! Yes, the same Bobby Hull that put the WHA on the map to begin with. On September 23, 2003, Bobby Hull was in Quebec City (My home town) to promote the idea of a new hockey league. Well, believe it or not, the league is getting started November 6, 2003 with 6 teams: Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, Lakeland, Alabama, Macon.

Ok, let’s not get too excited here. At this point, I’d have to consider this league a sub-par one, perhaps below the AHL in terms of caliber. But the prospect of seeing NHL players performing in Jaksonville, Alabama, and Lakeland is atrocious. Could this be an opportunity to reduce players’ salaries? Speculations, speculations!


Check out the website if you want to learn more about the old WHA:
http://www.worldhockeyassociation.net/
Or this official WHA2 website:
www.wha2.com

Finally, what if a long lockout leads to the exodus of many players? Ok, let’s get real here! The NHL is where its at, right? Though I could see many European players end their careers in Europe. Players such as Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Markus Naslund, Temmu Selanne, to only name a few. They have already hinted that their time is running out in the NHL. A lockout that lasts longer than one season would cause them to never come back. The Hall of Fame, the records, the great players that have played in the NHL will definitely bring back most of the players, especially the ones from the North American continent. But I’d personally like to see players such as Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and Brett Hull play a few more seasons. They will not be coming back after a yearlong lockout, guaranteed! And that would be the most disappointing thing of it all. Seeing Yzerman retired because of a long lockout. Sure, those players aren’t what they used to be but they are legends and future Hall of Famers…. well, Lemieux is already in the Hall!

Ok, ok, this is the last of my weekly articles based on next year’s potential lockout. Trust me, I don’t want to hear about it anymore than you do, but topics like that need to be looked at. Next week’s topic will revolve around Cheerleaders…kidding aside, now that I have your attention, let me know what you think would happen in the event of a lockout.

Don’t forget to read “In the Corner” and “Pat’s Pointers” in the Forum section.

Read me next week in Forward Fred! Until then, good hockey!

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