Jason Spezza is one of the NHLers to sign to play in Europe during the lockout. He will play in Switzerland with Rapperswil-Jona. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Some Friday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:
The mass exodus of players to Europe will turn into a flood now that Sweden’s Competition Authority has ruled that the Elitserien’s decision to ban locked out NHL players from playing there is illegal. The authority basically told the Swedish League it can’t operate like a cartel, which suits everyone just fine. It’s the same premise that dictates the free market has to rule and that the NHL can’t simply tell its owners what kinds of contracts to sign. That would be collusion, which is why it is trying to do exactly that through the collective bargaining process.
At last count, the number of locked out NHLers who have committed to European leagues stood at 55. With the best European league now open for business to homegrown players, don’t be surprised if that number doubles within the next couple of days.
Interesting, isn’t it, how the members of the NHL Players’ Association were all kumbaya leading into the lockout, displaying an unparalleled level of solidarity against the greedy owners? (And yes, they are greedy.) But then once players were faced with even a hint of inactivity, about eight percent of them – with many more to come – bolted to take another player’s job at the first opportunity.
You have to wonder how these same players would feel if the NHL went out and hired 720 replacement players to take their big-league spots while this imbroglio gets worked out. They would be outraged, of course. And there’s little doubt that any of those replacement players who managed to gain permanent employment would be skating around with a target on his back.
So does it make it any more ethical that these guys are taking away an opportunity to play from some fringe European player instead of a wildly talented millionaire? Not from this corner. And how are the players supposed to continue to display a united front in the face of NHL management when so many of its players – and some of its best ones – are busy playing games all over the world?
If you live in Southern Ontario or upstate New York and you’re looking for a unique hockey fix, check out USA Hockey’s All-American Prospects Game Sept. 29 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
Much like the Canadian League’s prospect game, this game will feature 40 of the top U.S.-born prospects for the 2013 entry draft. Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones, a candidate to challenge for No. 1 overall status with Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads and Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67’s, will be playing. J.T. Compher of the U.S. National Team Development Program and Ian McCoshen of the Waterloo Blackhawks, both early first-round candidates, will also be in the game.
The proposed GTA Centre in suburban Toronto doesn’t have an NHL team yet, but it does have an NHL feel to it. Earlier this week, chairman and CEO Graeme Roustan announced that the GTA Centre had secured a venue manager and a food and beverage service provider.
We don’t expect any of this to interest you terribly, but while Roustan publicly states he has received no guarantees from the NHL (which he hasn’t) and that his building would be self-sufficient without an NHL team, there is no doubt getting one is the end game.
Then you start to connect the dots. The venue manager just happens to be Global Spectrum, which is a subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor, which is a company owned by Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider. The food and beverage provider is none other than Delaware North Companies, which just happens to be the property of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs.
So you have the chairman of the NHL’s board of governors (Jacobs) and one of the most influential and powerful members of the league’s executive committee (Snider) now doing business with an NHL-sized rink in the most underserviced hockey market in the world.
The fact is, with an NHL team, the companies owned by those men will stand to make far more money than they would without a big-league tenant. You don’t suppose Snider and Jacobs would be in favor of a struggling market relocating to the most fertile hockey market on the planet, do you? And you’d have to think Jacobs and Snider could rally far more board of governors support for a team in Toronto than the Maple Leafs could muster to oppose the move.
The Maple Leafs, by the way, believe they have a veto over any NHL competitor moving into their territory. The league disagrees and feels it has the legal foundation to put a team wherever it wants. And that will someday be in Toronto.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.