Thursday, 20 September 2012

#Lockout2012 - NHL Players in the British Leagues - Could It Happen?

With the NHL preseason having been cancelled today, it looks more and more likely that the regular season will start late. Last time that happened, the whole season was cancelled (2004-05). Whilst this was terrible for NHL fans worldwide, British fans got to see a rare spectacle - NHL quality players in our country.

The picture above is ex-Caps defenseman Brendan Witt, who played for Bracknell Bees in West London during the lockout. He wasn't the only one either - several NHL players came to play in Britain:

Wade Belak, Nick Boynton, Rob Davison, Theo Fleury, Eric Cairns, Scott Nichol, Ian Moran, Steve McKenna, Jamie McLennan, David Oliver and Chris McAllister all also played in the UK. 

Whilst none of our professional teams play at a standard anywhere near the KHL or SEL - or most European leagues for that matter - we do hold some key attractions for locked out players:

1) Playing style - In the UK, we play a hybrid of North American and European style, playing physical but still maintaining some European elements. Rink sizes vary - some rinks are European sized, but most are North American size. As a result, physical oriented players will like playing here.

2) Language/Culture - we are the only European country that speaks English as our primary language, so any hockey players who didn't pay attention in Russian or Swedish class will have no problems. Also, our culture is very similar to Canada's - our mannerisms are very similar, and there are already plenty of North American players in our leagues anyway, who would help players adapt.

3) A humbling experience - Although players may not realise it, but playing alongside men who have a day job but they still play hockey because they love it, could really make the NHL players evaluate their efforts and come back to the NHL giving more than they ever have before.

But will we actually see any players here? Well, first off, the NHL's lockout would have to extend a while before any player comes here. Also, if they are after the money, they will not sign here, as the money is very bad due to a tiny salary cap. So, any player that can't find a contract elsewhere in Europe or would be uncomfortable dealing with a major change in culture could decide the UK is a viable option. It would be awesome for us too, bringing more fans to games, pumping much needed money into the sport here!

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