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New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist will spend the NHL lockout in the Swedish Elite League (aka Elitserien) with Frölunda HC if the season is eventually canceled. (Ed. Note: Updated from earlier, which said he had signed.)
[Also: Beer biz's lockout hangover]
The hope was that the more NHL stars that flocked to Elitserien, the more would follow, especially after an anti-trust ruling by the Swedish Competition Committee forced the SEL to allow its teams to sign locked-out players to short-term contracts.
Thing is, the teams haven't exactly taken advantage of this ruling. Sure, you have your Viktor Stalbergs and your Matt Duchenes and others. But not enough NHL players have signed with the SEL, at least to Lundqvist's liking.
"Trying to understand why the Swedish hockey league is the only league in the world which doesn't want to see NHL players give back to the clubs which raised them."
"Seeing many of our best players all around Europe and not in Sweden is for me personally a sign of weakness, not strength."
"Is the NHL strike really a problem for the Elite League or should it be viewed as a glorious opportunity instead?"
(Yep … strike. Not lockout.)
Looking at the list of NHL players overseas, you get a sense of Lundqvist's gripe. You have a guy like Henrik Zetterberg in Switzerland, Victor Hedman and Nicklas Backstrom in the KHL. The best and brightest that got their start in Sweden aren't necessarily playing there.
The issue, according to Hugosson, is that the "gentleman's agreement" with the league, before the anti-trust ruling, appears to be in effect for these teams that aren't aggressively pursuing NHL talent.
And as Lundqvist said, that's less a sign of respect for the league's integrity than frustration that it hasn't taken advantage of the available stars from the NHL. So good on Hank for calling them on it.