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NHL Players Challenge Swedish Leagues Ban On Short Term Contracts For NHL Players, Brief CBA Update

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With only nine days until the lockout begins there has been action abroad to regulate the number of NHL players that might wish to play there. If a lockout lasts for an extended period of time then many players will consider signing contracts abroad to keep on playing and to keep collecting pay cheques. Foreign leagues have begun to regulate the number of NHL players that can play in their leagues fearful that home grown players would be pushed out.

The first league to make a declaration on this issue was the Swedish top league, the Elitserien, who made it very clear that they expected any contracts signed with NHL players to last the entire year and that they would be fully completed. Many hope that any lockout would last only a short time and therefore would only want short term contracts with foreign clubs with get out clauses if the lockout ends earlier than expected. By announcing that they would expect all contracts to be fully honoured Sweden essentially declared itself a no go zone for NHL players unless they wished to serve the entire year. The Elitserien decision was quickly followed by the Allsvenskan's decision to enforce the same rule. Any NHL players who wanted to play hockey in Sweden for a short term would have to play in the third tier.

However there are signs that the Elitserien's and Allsvenskan's decision to prevent short term contracts for lockout NHLers is being challenged from both within Sweden and from the NHL players themselves.

The decision to block NHL players from the Swedish league has caused an angry reaction from several of the Swedish clubs, especially those who have links to current NHL players, who would benefit from the return of Swedish players from North America. Teams such as Djurgarden, Mora, Tingsryd, Sodertalje and Vasteras are reported by Expressen as having been particularly angry at the decision. They had been targeting several NHLers to return home to play for them, Sodertalje in particular was aiming for former Dallas Star's defenseman Nicklas Grossmann and current Stars forward Tom Wandell to return home during the lockout, but would now face heavy financial penalties if they attempted to do so.

This comes after the head of the Swedish league sent a letter to one team, Tingsryd, threatening sanctions against them if they broke the decision made by the league. The letter was sent a few days after their head coach publicly condemned the decision of the league. They were hoping to lure defenseman back Oliver Ekman-Larrson, who played two seasons with them before he was drafted, to spend a few months playing for the team.

In a new turn, again reported by Expressen, player agents have apparently started to consider legal action against the Swedish hockey leagues alleging that the action taken to prevent short term contracts contravenes Swedish and European law. From what I can glean from translated articles the players feel that the league's decision has damaged the idea of free competition. The Swedish league has apparently already hired legal counsel to prevent any successful challenge from the player's agents. If the player's agents succeed however it's possible that the top Swedish leagues could again be the destination of some NHL players.

Though this might be good news for NHL players it's sad to see that the NHL's CBA problems have started to cause chaos abroad.

In other CBA News:

  • The NHLPA and NHL are both meeting, separately, in New York City next week, whether there will be any informal meetings etc hasn't been made known to the general public. Hopefully there would be some contact between the two sides before the lockout officially begins.
  • The NHLPA has made it known through Allan Walsh that it would be willing to restart negotiations and continue on until a deal had been negotiated.

  • There have been several reports floating around the internet on how long NHL players expect the lockout to last with several reports suggesting that they expected it would be over before the end of November.