|Joe Thornton (left) and Rick Nash have also been playing together on Team Canada for years. (Getty Images)|
On the second day of the NHL lockout and the second day of players bolting for teams in Europe to bide their time while CBA negotiations play out (or wait to resume), the names are piling up. The latest two are Thornton and Nash. They played together for HC Davos in Switzerland during the last lockout. It was so good the first time, they're going to do it again.
"It sucks leaving here, but I've still got to play," Thornton said to David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News.
As for Nash? He wants to stay in shape, and this would seem to be as good a way as any.
#NYR Why is Nash headed to Davos? Really wants to hit the ground running in NY once lockout ends. Committed to doing well, staying sharp— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) September 17, 2012
You'll recall that, earlier this summer, the HC Davos club stated Thornton and Nash were going to return in the event of a lockout. It didn't take long for the denials to fly in from Darren Dreger of TSN and even the agents of the players involved. It seemed like a no-go on the reunion.
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Not anymore. Back together they go again.
From their one season together with Davos in 2004-05, the two players developed a great relationship. That led to a lot of the speculation that Nash wanted to be traded to the San Jose Sharks to join forces with Thornton. It didn't happen, as Nash was shipped from Columbus to the Rangers.
To add to this bit of migration news, Thornton's teammate in San Jose, Logan Couture, is apparently also going to play in Switzerland, just not with Nash and Jumbo. He appears to be on his way to Geneva.
Up until this point, all of the players who had signed deals with teams in Europe were guys who were returning home, i.e., players from Russia going back to Russia. Same holds for Czechs and Swedes. None of the North American stars were signing deals to go play half the world away.
With that said, I still don't think it signals much for the lockout and the players' feelings about how long it will last. These guys want a place to play. It's not about the money at this point; it's about getting ice time, and they're getting the chance at that in Europe. As soon as a deal is struck, they will head back home to rejoin their teams.
Not everybody is pleased with the decisions, of course, thinking these guys shouldn't even be leaving their teams in the first place. Take Kevin Delury of the NY Rangers Blog. He wasn't very fond of Nash's decision to leave the States and his new teammates behind.
...well so much for the team unity I was praising so much in my previous post.
...got to say I'm a bit disappointed. Not the best way to endear yourself to your new fan base.
Delury's interest is obviously in the Rangers, and this is being looked at through a Blueshirt prism. But it still seems off to me. The most important aspect that Rangers fans should be concerned with -- or any fans, for that matter, whose players are going overseas -- is that their player will be getting game action instead of building rust. The live-game experience is better than almost any team exercise the players can orchestrate on their own.
As long as the players' contracts are insured, there shouldn't be much of an issue. These players want to be able to keep fresh and stay in shape for when the NHL season begins.
They care about the money, but they also care about the game. To be more specific, they care about winning. You don't get to be a professional athlete without caring deeply about that. For some, like these three, the best way to ensure that happens is to continue to play, no matter where it is.
Who else is headed to Europe?
• Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff appears to be finalizing a deal to return to his hometown in Germany and play during the lockout (Buffalo News)
• Bruins forward David Krejci is likely heading to the Czech Republic to play for HC Pardubice (CSN New England)
• The Oilers' Ales Hemsky has a good chance of landing with Pardubice too considering his dad is the general manager (Edmonton Sun)
• The Sharks have another player going abroad as Jason Demers is headed to Karpat in Finland (Juha Hiitela)
• Islanders captain Mark Streit is headed to his native Switzerland to play for the team in Bern (SC Bern)
• Also headed to Switzerland are Habs defenseman Raphael Diaz and Damien Brunner of the Wings (Beim EVZ)
• As expected, Nikolai Kulemin is joining Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar with Metallurg Magnitogorsk (Ria Novosti)
• New member of the Flames Jiri Hudler is headed to the Czech Republic to play for HC Lev Praha (Genadi Boguslavski)
• Lubomir Visnovsky is headed to Europe to play for HC Slovan (ESPN)
• Jiri Tlusty in Carolina is gone to Finland, headed for Kladno (Chip Alexander)
• Another Hurricane, Jussi Jokinen, is also off to Finland. He'll play for Karpat (Chip Alexander)