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Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Pros and Cons of NHL Players Playing During the Lockout

As the battle between millionaire players and billionaire owners rages on in the NHL collective bargaining agreement talks, many fans have been noticing that many of their favorite players are opting to play overseas rather than sit things out and wait.

Since the previous collective bargaining agreement expired on September 15, the players have been free to sign with any team they want from any other league. This raises some interesting questions.

NHL players appearing in other leagues raises the interest in those leagues from hockey fans. ESPN has already capitalized on that interest by broadcasting games from the Russian KHL while the NHL is locked out.

ESPN has been largely ignoring the NHL since the 2005 lockout and having a competing league being broadcast on ESPN definitely does not help improve the NHL’s negotiating stance with NBC Sports and other television networks.

From a fan and team perspective, there are benefits and drawbacks to having the NHL players on teams overseas. The most obvious problem is the potential for injury. The last thing that the fans want to see is an NHL player’s career end because of an injury suffered during the lockout.

Another problem for NHL franchises that have players playing overseas is, with the raised public awareness of these other leagues, those league revenues will go up. The reason players come to North America to play in the NHL is money. If a league closer to home can offer decent money to a star player, then that player may decide to stay home and make a very comfortable living without having to deal with the aggravation that the NHL can sometimes create.

Despite the challenges, there are some perks to having NHL players play overseas. For one thing, the players get to play and stay in shape and the NHL does not have to pay them. In an NHL lockout, no one wins. The NHL has already lost an estimated $250 million because of the lockout. Any more losses will be catastrophic.

Another advantage to having the NHL players playing overseas is that they get game experience as opposed to just working out in a gym or skating in drills. It is a little easier for players to get their chemistry back with NHL teammates when they have already been playing in overseas leagues.

With ESPN chiming in and broadcasting KHL games, maybe the NHL owners will feel the pressure to get a deal done and get the international hockey spotlight focused back on the NHL.

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