The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

In a reversal from recent history, pro hockey players may soon leave North America for the lure of big money in Russia.

There's a LOT of background needed to make sense of this one... The NHL is the premier pro hockey league in the world, especially when it comes to salaries, so it's common for the best players in Europe to leave their home countries and try to strike it rich in North America. This has led to some resentment in Scandinavia and Russia (the main hockey hotbeds outside of Canada and the U.S.). So now in Russia, it looks like some pro clubs have decided to ante up to bring some players back, with the chief enticement being cash payments up front (and it is in U.S. dollars, not rubles; the American currency is a much stabler and more valuable money than most).

The mention of a "lockout" is interesting, as it shows how many people are taking it as a given that there will be a lockout in the NHL when the current labor agreement expires in 2004. A bit pessimistic, but certainly a strong possibility. And that's where this Russian development gets interesting: if players are locked out by then, many could decide to sign in Russia, which would prevent them from playing in the NHL that season. So for the short term, there might be a slight talent drain in the NHL.