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European leagues beckon

NHL not only game in town, players say

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/9/2012 (1616 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

They looked like Winnipeg Jets and still changed in a dressing room at the MTS Iceplex that featured the club's logo on the door above the words: 'Authorized personnel only.'

But instead of looking ahead to the opening of training camp, still scheduled for Friday this week, players like Olli Jokinen and Andrew Ladd, Antii Miettinen and Alex Burmistrov -- no longer wearing Jets practice jerseys, but still sporting team-issued helmets -- spent the second day of the NHL lockout working out and contemplating their immediate futures.

Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd skates at the MTS Iceplex on Monday. Ladd says he wants to play somewhere this season, and that may well turn out to be in Europe.

Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd skates at the MTS Iceplex on Monday. Ladd says he wants to play somewhere this season, and that may well turn out to be in Europe.

Winnipeg Jets player Olli Jokinen talks to media after skating with Jets and local pros at the MTS Iceplex Monday morning during lockout.

Winnipeg Jets player Olli Jokinen talks to media after skating with Jets and local pros at the MTS Iceplex Monday morning during lockout.

The question now is whether those futures are in Winnipeg or in places like Helsinki, St. John's or spread out all over Europe.

"Obviously we're not too optimistic right now, we don't know when both sides are going to meet again or when the deal is going to be in place," said Jokinen. "We're here now. We'll try to stick with our routine and stay ready. And if we have to, then we start looking to play someplace else. There's a lot of leagues in Europe."

Two Jets were among the first to lead the exodus overseas on the weekend with Alex Ponikarovsky signing in the KHL and Ondrej Pavelec in the Czech League. And others are examining possible opportunities while weighing leaving spouses or family behind.

"I'm exploring those options," said Ladd, the Jets' captain. "Hopefully we'll know more in the next week. Now that (the lockout) is official, I think there's a lot more interest from Europe and you'll see a lot more guys going over.

"I just want to play somewhere and if the NHL doesn't give us the opportunity here then I'll find elsewhere to do that. That was their prerogative to lock us out and it's ours to find somewhere else to work."

The players are hopeful for a quick resolution, but also aware this could drag on for weeks, if not months. And, for now at least, they are steadfast in their resolve.

"We gave everything that the owners wanted last time around and on top of that we rolled our salaries back 24 per cent," Jokinen said. "The last CBA was signed by the league and the owners. We want to get a fair deal, but we don't want to get pushed around and we don't want it to be, 'OK, here we go again. We signed a contract but let's cut the salaries down again.'

"Basically, last time we bent over and now they want us to bend over again."

Asked about the flurry of signings before the lockout Saturday night -- including the signing of teammate Evander Kane -- Ladd called the moves, taken in totality, "hypocritical."

And then there's this issue for debate: Does the exodus of players to Europe strengthen the NHL Players' Association position -- they can still work and get paid -- or hurt the solidarity with some still in North America wondering about their short-term futures?

"We're all together in this," said Ladd. "It's just other guys finding ways to keep busy and occupy their time. That's what it comes down to. I don't think the guys that aren't playing find it offensive at all.

"You have to be able to explore those options. Any other job in the world, if you get locked out or they want you to take a pay cut you can find a job somewhere else. I don't think it should be any different for us."

The Jets players in Winnipeg, who have been joined by other local NHLers such as Travis Zajac, Travis Hamonic, Ryan Reaves and Jannik Hansen, have been renting their ice -- and now the dressing room -- at MTS Iceplex for weeks.

Jokinen, by the way, conducted his interviews while wearing a Jets T-shirt and hat. When asked if he had heard that other teams were taking practice jerseys, socks and shirts from players, Jokinen said, "I don't really know about that. It's not like they're going to take our underwear away or anything like that. I guess there are certain rules teams have to follow. We're regular people right now. We're paying our own ice and doing our own laundry."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

What if....?


IT'S a question many NHL players have asked and their union has tried to provide an answer. And, ultimately, it may have several players opting to wait out the lockout rather than try to find work elsewhere.

What happens to their NHL contracts if they were to get hurt playing in Russia or Switzerland, Germany, Finland or Sweden?

Earlier this month the NHLPA sent a memo to its members titled, 'How Does a Lockout Affect Me?'

Key among the items in the memo was the point about what happens if they are injured elsewhere.

"We expect that your NHL club would suspend you without pay until you are fit to play," said the memo. "There is also a possibility that the club might take other disciplinary action... If you intend to play for a club in another league during a lockout, we recommend that you ask that club to insure the value of your SPC (standard players' contract) against injury. If the club is unwilling to do so, we recommend that you purchase disability insurance on your own."

The Philadelphia Daily News estimated on Monday that policies could range from five to six figures.

"These policies are based on a number of different variables, and they range from player to player," Ryan Tocicki, a claims adjustor for Lloyd's of London with Philadelphia-based Premier Insurance Services, told The Daily News. "They are based on previous medical and injury history, the term remaining on a deal and the amount remaining on a deal.

"A player like Sidney Crosby, for instance, would be much more expensive to insure because of his concussion history. They can get very complicated and insurers are strict. They do not insure against non-hockey injuries, which could result in a denial of payment."


-- Ed Tait


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