The National Hockey League Players Association has been laying it on thick since the summer — the latest example being the "hey, look at the NHL players that just so happened to drop in on a youth hockey practice, wearing their #ThePlayers jerseys!" campaign on Twitter.
Part of the players' PR front from the start: Leaving for Europe en masse, to show the owners they're in this CBA battle for the long haul.
But after they arrived there, things have gotten tricky: When we hear Alex Ovechkin or Ilya Bryzgalov talk about staying in the KHL even when the lockout is settled, is that the from the heart or more union marching orders being parroted?
When Rick Nash of the New York Rangers left for Davos in the Swiss League, he said there was a chance he'd play there for the full season — just like he did in 2004-05.
His teammate, then and now, was Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks. In an interview with Berner Zeitung, Thornton became the latest NHL star to cast doubt on the season:
Q. Today (Thursday, Ed) should have started the NHL season. Got news on lockout ending?
THORNTON: No. I am in contact with some people, but there is nothing concrete. I'm now expecting to play the whole season in Switzerland.
"Expecting" could probably mean "prepared to", but either way the pessimistic message from Thornton is clear. The only question is whether it's from the heart, from the NHLPA handbook or perhaps it's a way to sell more Davos swag by convincing the locals they're not part-timers.
s/t Andreas Boos