Is It Right For NHL Players To Head To Europe During The Lockout?


The lockout is not even a week old and already many of the game’s biggest names are packing their bags and boarding a flight to go play in Europe.  Leagues such as the KHL, the Swiss and Finnish Elite League are drawing names such as Jason Spezza, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin just to name a few.  These players are locked out, banned from playing in the full-time league they prefer so they find other ways to stay in shape and keep their skills sharp should they return to North America to rejoin the NHL if it happens at all this season.

But the lockout is hurting more than just the players who play the game at the elite level.  Yes the fans are the ones who are forced to find other mean’s of entertainment for the six months of the regular season and so too are the staff that work the arena concessions, private suites and general rink staff that are without 41 nights of work.  But how about the players who occupy the European leagues when the NHL is in full swing in both the U.S and Canada?  Those are the players that are feeling the impact by this lockout as many of them are now without jobs meaning they are not getting paid this winter.

Mark Spector of Sportsnet talked with Domenic Pittis, a former NHL player who bounced around for seven years, only suiting up in 86 games; a journeyman at best if you will.  Yet Pittis has made his living by playing the game that he’s good at and doing it in Europe for the past eight seasons.

Spector reveals that Pittis is making a far cry from what the NHL pays, pulling in $375,000 US per season in the Swiss Elite League.  Now you can argue that he’s still making more than most of us will ever see over the course of a working year, but this is more about the principal.

Pittis is now sitting at his Calgary home waiting for the lockout to end as he does not have a contract to play in Switzerland, at least not yet.  You can bet that if the NHL settles their differences and lifts the lockout, the 38-year old will hear his phone ring shortly there after and he’ll be on the first plane overseas to once again play for his paycheck.  For now he is without work and one can only hope that he managed his finances properly and can take a year off without pay.

Other players who weren’t fortunate enough to play for millions of dollars over 7-years in the NHL, they are the ones who might have families they are trying to feed and relied upon their Swiss paycheck to put food on the table.  Pittis is a big name when it comes to the regular roster in Switzerland, meaning his salary wouldn’t be what the younger and less skilled players would be making.

Is it right that guys like Rick Nash and Jason Spezza bump players like Pittis and others for potentially a full season?  Nash just signed an 8-year, $62.4 million dollar deal and Spezza was set to make $8MM this year so don’t tell me they need the money.  They want to stay in touch with the game and not lose their edge so that if the season is saved they are in tip-top condition when they return to their respective clubs.  But should they be allowed to do it at the expense of players like Pittis who only has a couple of years left before he hangs up the skates and searches for a full-time office job.

It’s easy to understand the European clubs desire to bring these superstars over, even if it is for only a couple of months.  The hype that these big names bring will attract more fans who in turn will spend more money on team merchandise, not to mention they’ll fill the rinks every night.  So you can’t blame the owners of these teams who are essentially running a business and are doing what’s best for their bottom line.

Pittis is one guy that played in the show and was said to be a part of this brotherhood among players.  A brotherhood that boots the bottom feeders to the side when the big dog wants to eat, begging the question, do these current NHL players really care about the Association and their fellow brothers or are they in it for themselves?  Even if it means at the expense of those who need their job for one year a whole lot more than the stars who want more money and are willing to go elsewhere to play the game.

Is it right or is it wrong?  Let’s hear your comments and thoughts about whether you feel the NHL players should flog to Europe to play when the lockout is on.