Many NHL players to play in Europe during lockout

9/22/2004 - NHL

TORONTO -- European hockey has taken on an NHL look.

With an NHL lockout in place, more than 150 players have signed
to play in European leagues, including Markus Naslund with Modo
(Sweden), Jaromir Jagr with Kladno (Czech Republic) and Ilya
Kovalchuk with AK Bars Kazan (Russia).

Most of the players have lockout clauses that allow them to
return to the NHL if and when the labor impasse ends. For now,
European teams are taking advantage.

Besides Naslund of the Vancouver Canucks, Modo also signed his
teammates Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Niklas Sundstrom (Montreal),
Pierre Hedin (Toronto) and Peter Forsberg (Colorado).

Forsberg has indicated he will play the entire season with Modo.
He got off to a good start Tuesday, scoring a goal in a
season-opening 3-3 tie on the road against Brynas. Forsberg beat
former New York Rangers goalie Johan Holmqvist with a slap shot
into the top corner on his third shift.

"It was a nice goal," Forsberg said.

In the third period, Forsberg was assessed a double-major
penalty for cross-checking. He left the ice for good amid boos from
the sold-out crowd.

"I don't think it (the hit) was that bad," Forsberg said. "He
was skating to the bench ... I didn't cross-check him ... it was
more like a push in the back. But it was stupid to do it."

Only 17 Canadian players are headed to Europe, with many others
preferring to compete in a four-on-four exhibition series in
Ontario and Quebec.

The Czech league has signed 47 NHL players: Jagr of the New York
Rangers and Tomas Kaberle of Toronto skate for Kladno; Martin
Rucinsky of Vancouver is with Litvinov; Ziggy Palffy of the Los
Angeles Kings is with Slavia Prague; Radek Bonk of Montreal is with
Trinec; and Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils is with Znojmesti

The Russian league has 33 NHL players. Besides Kovalchuk of the
Atlanta Thrashers, there's Andrei Markov of Montreal and Pavel
Datsyuk of Detroit (Dynamo Moscow); Sergei Gonchar of Boston (Met.
Magnitogorsk); and Garth Snow of the Islanders (SKA St.

The Swedish league signed 30 players, while the Finnish and
Slovakia leagues signed nine NHL players apiece. Joe Thornton of
Boston and Rick Nash of Columbus Blue Jackets headline the Swiss
league, skating for Davos. Leagues in Austria, France, Italy and
Germany also signed a few NHL players.

Forsberg is happy to be home, but knows he has a long way to go
before he's playing at a top level.

"It's nice to be back, but this was not the best game in my
life," Forsberg said. "I'm not blaming anything. There are big
expectations, all other teams want to beat us."