September 21, 2012

Playing hockey in Sweden is now officially fair game

Lundqvist, Eriksson and other locked out NHL stars now free to flock to Swedish Elite League
Previously, the Swedish Elite League (SEL) was the only top European league that wasn't permitting NHL players to sign with its teams. The country's second-tier league, Allsvenskan, lifted its ban in early September; Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings was one of the players that opted to sign there.

Could there be an appeal? Perhaps. But the Swedish Elite League teams are already snatching up NHL players, hours after the ruling.

Modo announced that it had signed Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues; there's talk that Tobias Enström of the Winnipeg Jets could be next.
Modo is in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden - which is quite a bit north of Stockholm, for those that aren't familiar with Swedish geography. Markus Naslund, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks (among other teams) is the general manager. And Peter Forsberg, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche (among other teams) is an assistant general manager.

I could never really get behind a KHL team, I have to admit. But the Elitserien and Modo? Sign me up.

During the last lockout, that's the team that I followed: Modo. So I became fairly decent at reading Swedish because of that. I can't speak a word of it, but I used to be able to at least get the gist of a hockey article in the language.

I'm sure Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning will sign there, since Ornskoldsvik is his hometown. So there will be at least one Lightning connection for me to justify to others why I follow that team. Though, in reality, it's more about Naslund and Forsberg for me than Hedman. I like Hedman, don't get me wrong, but still.

As a side note about the lockout, I think that if the players' union wants to send a serious message to the NHL owners, they'd do what Alexander Ovechkin has threatened to do recently - finish out the season in another league. The NHL isn't the only hockey league to play in, after all. And the owners, if they genuinely realized that, may finally realize that locking out players every labor negotiation might be a bad idea - because the players just might choose to not come back.

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