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Russian players, QMJHL teams affected by Canadian Foreign Service strike

Reigning CHL rookie of the year Valentin Zykov is affected by the foreign service strike (The Canadian Press)

Money is a barrier to getting several Russian players to training camp with their major junior hockey clubs, only not in the stereotypical sense. While it hasn't rated much media coverage in Canada, one ripple of the entrenched Canadian Foreign Service strike is that numerous Russian players face weeks-long delays receiving the visas necessary for them to settle in Canada and play in one of the three CHL circuits.

The foreign service strike includes embassies and 15 of the largest visa processing centres aboard in world capitals, including Moscow. As TVA Sports' Mikaël Lalancette and Le Soleil's Steeve Paradis have reported, it's a fairly star-studded list of players who could miss the start of training camp.

Please keep in mind that QMJHL clubs typically begin camp 10-14 days before OHL and WHL clubs. Its regular season also begins in the second week of September, while the other two drop the puck in the third.

Among the players/teams affected, by Lalancette's count:

— Los Angeles Kings high second-rounder Valentin Zykov and his compatriot on the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, 19-year-old newcomer Denis Gorbunov;

— The Moncton Wildcats duo of Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tkachev, who are expected to be the club's offensive leaders this season;

— Cape Breton Screaming Eagles import picks Maxim Lazarev and Evgeny Sveshnikov;

— Sherbrooke Phoenix sophomore defenceman Vladislav Lysenko.

Nikita Lyamkin, the 17-year-old defenceman who's coming to the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, apparently already has his visa.

In some instances, it's still possible to receive a Canadian visa. It's just going to take much longer. The QMJHL is affected more not only because it starts its season earlier, but because it is often a preferred destination for Russians due to a shorter time-zone difference between their homeland and eastern Canada.

It certainly bears monitoring. The issue at stake for the striking members of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers is that they are "paid $3,000 to $14,000 less a year than other employees in the Canadian federal government, including lawyers, economists, policy analysts and commerce officers." It is the kind of labour fight the federal government, whether the Liberals or Conservatives are in a power, probably relishes provoking. Overseas government employees being on strike isn't nearly as attention-getting or as likely to spark a media firestorm as a strike by employees at Air Canada or Canada Post, so it's easier to try to wait the workers out until they come to terms.

Who knows how long this will drag. It would be something if the absence of popular Russian hockey players called attention to an otherwise off-the-radar labour story.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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