Hockey players head abroad as lockout begins
Published Sunday, September 16, 2012 7:26AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 16, 2012 9:11PM EDT
National Hockey League players are pursuing opportunities to play on European teams as the league entered the first full day of a lockout Sunday.
The NHL’s collective agreement expired at midnight Saturday with the league and the players’ association still at odds over how to split almost $3.3 billion in annual revenue.
The league’s pre-season games are expected to be cancelled as early as next week. The probability of a regular season -- scheduled to start on Oct. 11 – appears more and more unlikely.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, Ottawa Senators’ Sergei Gonchar, and Detroit Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk were among those who signed contracts with the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League, The Canadian Press reports.
Jaromir Jagr will play in his native Czech Republic, while Jussi Jokinen (Karpat) has signed with Finland.
Players are also expected to sign with teams from Switzerland, Sweden and Germany, as well as non-traditional hockey countries like Austria, Great Britain, Italy and Norway.
“The scary part is I think you'll see some of the best players in the game (going over)," said Calgary Flames forward Mike Cammalleri. "Let's hope they come back when they're going to get paid the dollars they're going to get paid in some of these leagues to go play now."
European teams will pay for the players’ insurance premium, which according to one agent, could range between $2,500 and $20,000 per month.
The KHL can pay NHL players a maximum of 65 per cent of what they earn under their NHL contracts.
Cammalleri said it is possible that some NHL players will stay in the Russian league even when the lockout ends.
"You can go over there and make millions and millions and millions of dollars to play hockey," he said.
At the heart of the disagreement between the league and the players is how to share the league’s overall revenue totalling US$3.28 billion.
The league is insisting the players get no more than 49 per cent of revenue -- a drop from the current 57 per cent they now receive. The league wants that percentage to drop to 47 per cent by the end of the six-year deal.
The Players’ Association is asking for 54.3 per cent, with the percentage dropping over the course of a six-year contract.
The last NHL labour stoppage caused a complete cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season, a lockout that ended only when the players agreed to a salary cap and a 24 per cent cut in salary.
The lockout will be the NHL’s fourth work stoppage since 1992.
With files from The Canadian Press