The Great Eight Talking Tough!

Photo: 1995hoo/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Last week, while doing a conference call with some Washington reporters, Alex Ovechkin suggested that if a rollback is included in the next CBA deal, he would consider staying in Russia to play.

"I said it before, before I sign contract, if the league decide to cut our salaries and cut our contracts for what they want, I don’t know how many guys will be coming back," Ovechkin said during the call with the Washington Times and Washington Post on Wednesday.

"We signed contracts before and why they have to cut our salaries and our contracts right now? They sign us. [Now they] want to cut it, I think it’s a stupid idea and a stupid decision by the NHL, [commissioner Gary] Bettman and the guys who work there."

Tough talk. I get it. He isn’t thrilled with the idea of a rollback. The last CBA included a twenty four percent rollback. That was a kick in the crown royal bag. But you know what? I don’t remember one player who already had a contract saying ‘forget it! I am out of here. I am going to play in Europe.’ And it won’t happen this time.

Could players make more money playing in Europe? For sure. The KHL seems to have very deep pockets and will pay for top players. Often a player who was making X here minus taxes can make that same X without taxes, all cash in Europe. Doesn’t take an accountant to figure out how much more take home that is.

There are some other perks, (I won’t get into some of the negatives). Less games, national team breaks, less physical and if you are European it is closer to home. All those look pretty good to me, so sure Ovie, I get what you are saying. But, you are forgetting one thing.

The best players are all in the NHL. I think the best players like to play and prove themselves against other top players. That is how you create a reputation and legacy for yourself. Winning Norris trophies, Hart trophies and Stanley Cups put a player on the map for world-wide hockey.

Can someone tell me who won the KHL league championship last year? Who was the league’s MVP in 2008? What goalie had the top goals against average in 2010? Unless you are from Russia or a huge fan of European hockey here in North America you don’t know the answer.

2008-09 KHL MVP Danis Zaripov (Photo: Акутагава/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0)

However, you ask any hockey fan, from North America, Finland, Russia, Sweden, etc., who won the Stanley Cup last year? Who won Hart Trophy in 2008 or the top goalie in 2010? They will all have an answer.

To be considered the best you have to play in the best league in the world. That is why the top players in the world come to play in the NHL, MLB and NBA. That is why many CFL players take a run at the NFL each spring.

Top athletes are skilled at their sport and very competitive. That competitiveness is what has pushed them to the top of their sport and urges them to seek out the best competition.

Ovie, I get you are frustrated with the NHL CBA negotiations but I believe yours is an empty threat. If you want to be considered one of the greats to have played in the NHL you have no choice but to stay. If you decide you are to upset by whatever the new CBA looks like and want to stay in the KHL. No problem. There are other young guys coming to take your spot. They will take a run at the best league in the world.

I get asked all the time if I think the Oilers should be worried that Nail Yakupov is now playing in the KHL. They wonder if I think he will stay there. I think it is a good move because he is playing against men in the KHL rather than boys in the OHL. This will get him more prepared to compete against NHL players.

Do I think he will stay there? No way! From what I have seen from Nail he wants to prove himself against the best. The best is here in the NHL.

Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer

On Saturday I took part in the Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer event that was put on next to the Northland Horse track. What a great day! Jason Gregor put our team together and we had a great time.

Our goalie, Caesar, was outstanding after the first game. Not going to lie, Caesar, I thought I was going to have to block every shot to win but then in the second game you turned into a stud! Great job!

Next year their goal is to have one hundred teams compete, this year there were sixty. Gregor and I will let you know about next year’s event very early so you can all put together a team.

Huge high five to my man Gregor, outside of Caesar he was our MVP. He nearly had a hat trick in one shift! Pretty impressive.


  • Oilfan69

    Honestly I hope he does stay. I hope after the lockout the players strike for another season. I hope the league fails and we can start again from scratch, I honestly do. Everyone knows people will not go in droves to watch “replacement players”.

    I hope we start from scratch, get salaries back to where the best in the league make $1,000,000 – $2,000,000 a season. We can also bar anyone involved in current NHL ownership from being involved in the new league. Enough is enough. I’m done with these brats. Lets get back to watching people who love the sport as much as we do. Lets get ordinary people able to go to games so players and owners don’t make $3,000,000,000 a year to fight over.

    As far as I’m concerned I am done with the NHL, players and owners. They have stuck it to me one too many times. Call it a bluff all you want, we will see how much my wallet opens if the NHL ever comes back.

    If you do go back if they return, you truly are a fool who wishes to be parted with their hard earned money. I believe P.T. Barnum called you a sucker, and you are proving him right.

    They say it is the players are the cattle, but I think that’s wrong. It is we who are the cattle if we go back with money in hand…. Or maybe that makes us the Cud.

  • Jason Strudwick

    I watch on tv, 70 or so Oilers games a year plus some others, and alot of playoff hockey every year.

    Without looking it up I couldn’t tell you who won the Hart Trophy in 2007 or 2008 or most awards for most years.
    I dont consider myself a super fan, probably more average.

    Yes I agree that the NHL is the best league in the world but to the average fan the winners of most awards other than the stanley cup are not imortalized in our minds as far as I’m concerned. Most likely only a small segment of hockey fans put the required ammount of effort in to keep up with that type of information.

    On another note, the NHL may be the best league now but how many top players would have to jump ship to the KHL to tip the balance? Is it unrealistic to think that its possible that in 10-15 years the KHL may be able to close alot of that gap if they were to start attaining a few guys like Ovechkin?

  • Ovie is doing everyone that’s wants to watch the nhl this season a favour. The players and nhlpa have absolutely no leverage on the owners and the only player that does is Ovie. He is the only player in the nhl with as much marketability and good enough for the league so be scared of Loosing a player like him. Obviously he isn’t going to leave but he is the sole player that holds any leverage. You t think players like Petrell being lost will have any impact on the league doing business

  • vetinari

    Here is the reality of the present lockout:
    1.) the teams are owned by billionaries. These teams are their personal toys to do with as they exclusively please, and the fans are simply just consumers of their “brand” or “product”.
    2.) the average NHL player makes more money in one season than the average fan will make in his or her lifetime. These guys make a living and get paid by playing a game. I appreciate that it is at an elite level with tons of stress, but do you think that doctors, judges, teachers, engineers and other professionals face any less stress in their daily professional lives while getting a fraction of a NHLer’s compensation?
    3.) the average fan will flock back to the rink as soon as the lockout ends to support their team. In marketing, it would be called “brand loyalty”. Did either the teams or the NHLPA consult with you before the lockout? Of course not, because this is a private dispute between billionaires and millionaires. It just so happens that the industry that they are in is the entertainment industry and while they are fighting, there’s no entertainment “product” to deliver. Thus, this fight is more like the tv writer’s strike from a few years back than let’s say, a teacher’s strike, and doesn’t impact people in the same manner. As soon as the entertainment resumes, people will return to it. Bettman had it right because this is a simple fact of the entertainment industry.

  • ralph_u

    I agree with poster #2. I liked the league alot better 20 years ago when there were 21 teams, and stars like Glen Anderson were making a solid 300k per season. Only the ultra elite like Gretzky and Hull were pulling down 1 or 2 million.

    THe best thing for the fans would be for the NHL to collapse, and a new league rise from the ashes with a bit of common sense attached to it.

    It would be nice if an average fan could go to a game for 40 bucks and not have to sit in the nose bleeds surrounded by roughnecks who drop F bombs every third word.

    I’m tired of being gouged. Never ending greed.

  • ralph_u

    One other thing though Jason those other leagues would be also paying top dollar to attract all those players. If you don’t pay the most you won’t attract the best in a few years is all I am saying. If it is close then I would guess more North Americans would stay and Europeans would go closer to home. Without some of these top foreign players more teams will struggle at the gate, don’t you think?

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Someone should tell Ovechkin that when he signs a thirteen year NHL contract, he can’t play in Europe until that. Contract runs out. It’s the most empty a threat can get

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      Good point. Although I’m sure some guys will argue that their contracts are void if there’s a salary roll back. Guys like Parise, Suter, Weber, etc. excluded.

      • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

        Recent transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL ensure that even if doesn’t return to the NHL, he is unable to join the KHL once the lockout is over. It’s as empty a threat as some people stating they’re about to boycott all things NHL related…

  • Jason Strudwick

    I love the passion any mention of CBA talks bring out in people! I think it is crazy it is happening again.

    Will the day come when the KHL is better then the NHL? I can’t see it happening. Will all the top north Americans want to go and play there? Can’t see that happening.

    Radulov was/is one of the best players in that league last year? After his performance with Nashville was there a lineup of teams wanting to sign him?

    • Reg Dunlop

      “Radulov was/is one of the best players in that league last year? After his performance with Nashville was there a lineup of teams wanting to sign him?”

      Radulov was really good, yeah. His linemates were a second line forward and a fourth line forward and they were still a pretty dangerous line. But considering how quickly he signed back in the KHL one’s gotta think that the NHL GMs knew about it before it happened.

      From above…08 Hart was Ovechkin (07 was Crosby).

      Ovechkin has won all the individual hardware he ever will in the NHL, I bet (at least, he’s not going to add his first ____, it’ll just be more of what he has already).

      Feel like the biggest reason to come back is the Olympics. After Radulov bolted on a valid contract, the IIHF decided that if you skimp out on a contract, you can’t play at their events (but I believe Radulov was grandfathered in). Ovechkin won’t be allowed to play in Sochi if he stays. No chance he’d forego his home Olympics.

  • Jason Strudwick

    Terrific read as always Struds. After reading all of the “cons” about a career in Europe I can only imagine that what Ovi said was in haste.

    However money talks and there are some players that want a bigger bank account in lue of a bigger legacy when their career has ended. I’m not his biggest fan but I hope Ovi isn’t one of these players. I’d hate to see him leave for Europe (despite being from Europe myself).

  • Reg Dunlop

    Very interesting topic,well done JS.

    My contribution here is a little KHL lesson. I know that the KHL champion recieves the Gagarin Cup. Yuri Gagarin was the 1st human to orbit the Earth but Soviet officials had to pour the vodka into him and tell him that there was a lap-dancer waiting for him in the rocket to get him in the cockpit.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I live in the former Soviet Union, not Russia, but one of the Republics. One thing I can tell you is that life just isn’t as good here and an obscene amount of money wouldn’t help all that much. I just can’t see too many players, even Russians, choosing to be a millionaire in Russia rather than a millionaire in North America. A few will perhaps go for a short period to make a statement but it won’t last.

  • Concur

    Other than the Stanley Cups I don’t know who won all the hardware in the NHL and I really don’t care either. I won’t bet on it but I think that many people think the same. All the other hardware is right close to the All star break….. boring

  • Concur

    Jason: The NHL is the best league in the world only so long as the best players continue to play in it. I agree, I can’t see a lot of people bolting for the KHL in the immediate future, but for the first time since the WHA, there’s a viable alternative for top-tier talent. This round of labour disputes might begin a trickle of higher-level talent moving from the NHL to the KHL. What happens in five or eight or ten years when the NHL locks out the players again and tries to claw back even more salarty? Does that trickle become a flood?