Some unintended victims of the foreign service workers strike included students and Russian hockey players, both groups finding it difficult to have their visas processed by a backlogged system that has no choice but to go through applications much slower than normal.
Credit to Mikael Lalancette of TVA Sports, who foresaw this problem at the start of August. Of the three Russians on QMJHL rosters last season set to take on a second year with their squads—Valentin Zykov (Baie-Comeau), Ivan Barbashev (Moncton), Vladislav Lysenko (Sherbrooke)—none are in camps as of last report. This setback has National Hockey League implications as well, as Barbashev is one of the hot prospects of the 2014 draft class while Zykov should be expected to attend Los Angeles Kings camp in a little over two weeks when they open it up to rookies.
*UPDATE* - Zykov received his visa on Tuesday.
The Sherbrooke Phoenix have already made a move to lessen the impact of losing Lysenko for an undetermined amount of time, acquiring Gabriel Labbé from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan for a draft pick.
Fewer Russians play out in the Western Hockey League due to the time difference (WHL teams are more likely to take western European players at the import draft) it's still having an effect. Both import players for the Moose Jaw Warriors are Russian, Alexei Sleptsov and Alexander Chirva.
“We’re not the only team dealing with this. The Canadian foreign services strike has affected some of the visa process on some of the guys getting to North America,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar. “The Quebec league started their camps earlier than us and they’re still waiting on guys as well.
“The positive is that he is just waiting for his visa and he’s committed to come.”
The rotating strike began at embassies and as the dispute continued, the union for the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers withdrew visa services at their 15 biggest processing centres — including Moscow. Refugee claimants are having their visas processed, but Chirva is one of many people — including countless students looking to study in Canada this fall — who are stuck waiting to have their visa applications processed. [Moose Jaw Times]
For most players in most years, obtaining the transfer card from the International Ice Hockey Federation is the longer process, but as Matthew Gourlie notes in the above story in the Moose Jaw Times, Chirva is a member of the Warriors "in the eyes of hockey's international governing body".
Every year you may get a hangup or two, but not in numbers like this affecting multiple players and teams. Key players in the OHL don't seem to be affected. Sarnia's Nikolay Goldobin showed up in Canada yesterday, and Sergey Tolchinsky of the Soo Greyhounds has been updating his Instagram with workout videos, perhaps as an effort to convince either the Carolina Hurricanes or New York Rangers to ink him to a deal.
Ironically, last year Tolchinsky was delayed and didn't get his visa until September 6th. For Barbashev and Chirva, along with a host of prospects across the three junior leagues, there's no timetable in place so it appears they'll just have to wait as the season begins.