Sidney Crosby is making more noise about leaving for Europe than he has in weeks, which is either a harbinger of doom for the CBA talks or indicative of Crosby's competitive desire having overtaken him.
Here's Sid to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, after arriving in Phoenix to skate with some NHLers that are training there:
"At the end of the day, I'm a hockey player and I love to play," Crosby said. "Don't get me wrong, I don't mind practicing but I've been practicing a lot for the last couple of years. I just want to play. If there's nothing really happening as far as getting a deal done, then it becomes much more important to play games and finding out where that makes sense."
Crosby spoke about his options, including Europe, with agent Pat Brisson on Monday night.
"Sidney is seriously looking at his options in Europe," Brisson told ESPN.com Tuesday. "He needs and wants to play hockey. It will be difficult to go all year without playing after what he's gone through the last two years. Over the next few days I'm going to make more calls and continue to explore Sidney's options."
Crosby's longing to play again is palpable. This is a player that's missed more games than he's played over the last two seasons, and one whose last game in 2011-12 campaign ended an embarrassing series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
That he hasn't left for Europe yet has been intriguing but understandable, giving everything from health to insurance concerns. But more than anything, it's understandable because he's Sidney Crosby.
Look, we all know Alex Oveckin's jetting to the KHL the moment the owners lock him out for various reasons. Crosby's different: He's the poster child for the League, and Canada's Golden Boy. If he leaves North America to play in Europe, it becomes a global hockey story and a "canary in a coal mine" one at that — how bad are things if Sidney Crosby would take his fragile neck to play in what amount to professional scrimmages in his eyes?
His leaving would have optic and political fallout. Frankly, it'd be an embarrassment to the League that it's gotten this far.
Let's say this isn't bluster from Brisson and Crosby. Let's say Europe is on the horizon. There's really only one place Crosby should play to maximize the impact of his decision — and that's the Kontinental Hockey League.
Remember when the NHL lockout was the KHL's moment?
Remember when the Russian league had a collection of the NHL's top stars populating its teams, and had hockey fans tracking down streaming sites to watch them? Remember when the KHL was on ESPN2, serving as the straight man to the comedy stylings of Steve Levy and Barry Melrose? Remember the Brooklyn games that were going to happen?
The KHL was positioned to be a league that poked and prodded the NHL while the owners locked out their players. It hasn't exactly panned out that way. Adding Sidney Crosby to that collection of NHL players might change that.
The Sid-to-the-KHL chatter has been going on for months. Via Russia Beyond The Headlines on Oct. 11:
"I've been in talks with Metallurg about Crosby since September, before the announcement of the lockout," said the player's KHL agent, Gennady Ushakov. "I phoned Velichkin [vice-president of Metallurg Magnitogorsk], who said that he needed to consult with his management team. We got in touch later, and this time Velichkin replied that, if it was true and not a hoax, then a contract could be signed. I passed on the information to my U.S. colleagues, but Crosby and his agents decided to take a timeout."
Ushakov collaborates with one of the largest agencies in North America, CAA Sports. Their clients include Evgeni Malkin, the Sedin brothers, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and other NHL stars.
"If the season is canceled, many of our clients will move to Russia," said Ushakov. "As for Crosby, there will be clubs in the KHL willing to sign him."
Well … yeah.
It's no secret that Crosby harbors bitterness toward the NHL. He's been vocal about the League's approach to head-shots after his injury, caused by hits that Crosby felt should have earned supplemental discipline. During the lockout, he's taken a more prominent role with the NHLPA than could have been expected by any "face of the game" athlete; not only at NHLPA events in New York but also speaking candidly to local media on a nearly daily basis about the lockout.
But he's also a player that understands, inherently, what it means for him to leave for Europe. It's an indictment. It's a statement.
He's not playing for the Cardiff Devils. Switzerland is a vacation. Sweden isn't a statement. The KHL would be one.
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