Swedish officials tossed out the ban on NHL players in the Elitserien, but few North American stars have jumped to Sweden.
Waiting continues for NHL stars
Swedish hockey fans will have to wait a little bit longer to see their favorite NHL players in the Elitserien.
Although the Swedish Competition Authority struck down the Eliterien ban on short-term contracts, the expected flow of out-of-work National Hockey League stars hasn’t materialized. The main reason, said Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, is the players simply aren’t sure of what is going to happen in North America.
“We’re going to wait and see,” Sedin said of himself and twin brother Daniel. “That’s the only thing I can say. If it drags on and it looks like it’s going to be the full year, then we’re going to make a decision.”
The Competition Authority on Sept. 25 overturned the Elitserien ban on short-term contracts. The league contended it did not want to “rent” NHL players for short periods. Every player in the NHL became available when owners of the NHL teams locked out the players after they failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The Elitserien insisted it would only sign out-of-work NHL players if the players agreed to stay in Sweden for the entire season.
"The hockey league's decision can be likened to a cartel," Per Karlsson, senior counsel at the Competition Authority. "The decision means that ice hockey clubs that are affiliated to Swedish Hockey AB (Elitserien) must decide themselves if they want to sign contracts with locked-out NHL players or not."
Although the league as a whole had decided to ban NHL players, individual clubs were secretly still keen on snapping up talent on short-term deals. Defending league champions Brynäs, currently third in the standings after nine games, made the first move, snapping up Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Corey Franson.
According to Brynäs, Franson signed on for the entire season—not simply until the lockout ends. Papers in Toronto, however, disputed reports Franson planned to stay in Sweden no matter what, saying the defenseman signed with the Tigers after the Competition Authority threw out the ban on short-term contracts.
Franson, who is an unsigned free agent, had 21 points in 57 games with Toronto last season. The Brynas website quoted him as saying, “It feels very inspiring coming to Brynas, and staying the entire season."
Fans in the Allsvenskan may not have to wait as long as their Elitserien brethren; the second-tier of Swedish hockey issued an open invitation to any out-of-work NHL player to play in the Allsvenskan as long as he wants. All-star defenseman Douglas Murray of San Jose signed with his former team, Djurgården, September 28, while Los Angeles Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar signed with Mora, where he will play with his younger brother, Gaspar.
Ongoing talks complicates For many Swedish players in the NHL, however, ongoing talks between the players union and the owners continue to complicate the situation. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said despite the allure of playing for Frölunda once more, even for a short while, he doesn’t want to make a move only to return to the U.S. in a few weeks.
“I’m going to stay put for a little while and skate and train here, but if this isn’t settled soon, I’ll choose the option that will allow me to be in the best shape for the Rangers once the season begins,” the Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender said. “If playing high-level games in Sweden does become a possibility, that probably would be the best way for me to accomplish that.”
Lundqvist played seven seasons for Frölunda before joining the Rangers in 2005. He and his wife, Therese, have not been home since the birth of their first child, Charlise, on July 10, in New York.
“My parents are the only members of my family who have seen our daughter,” Lundqvist said. “We are planning to go to Sweden in a couple of weeks so we can see our family and friends. I can’t wait for [twin brother] Joel and his family to meet her, that will be very exciting—whether or not I can play over there.”
Lundqvist said the lockout and the uncertainty over when and where he might play is beginning to weigh heavily.
“It’s almost impossible for me to explain how disappointed and frustrated I am over this situation. It’s hard for me to believe we can’t find a solution that makes sense for everyone,” he said. “It’s just weird mentally right now. All my focus was on being ready for training camp [scheduled to open Oct. 1] and for the season, but I’ve lost a little bit of that. It’s like a balloon where the air goes out.”
by Chipp Reid
San Jose all-star Doug Murray is on his way from California to Djurgården. Bildbyrån photo