Czech hockey agrees to transfer proposal

8/16/2005 - NHL

GENEVA -- Every European hockey federation except Russia signed a two-year transfer agreement between the NHL and hockey's governing body on Tuesday, ensuring that the NHL will send players to the 2006 Turin Olympics.

The Russian federation rejected the deal, which regulates financial compensation, limits the number of players that can leave Europe annually and imposes a transfer deadline. The Czech Republic originally refused to sign but agreed to an amended proposal Tuesday.

"Any players signed by the NHL from Russia will not be regulated by the player transfer agreement," the International Ice Hockey Federation said in a statement late Tuesday evening.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined comment.

The other countries who signed on with the Czech Republic were Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. The deadline this season for player transfers from the countries to the NHL will be Aug. 24.

The agreement ends June 15, 2006.

The IIHF said it will announce further details of the agreement when it is signed by the parties involved, likely in September.

"I am very pleased that we were finally able to reach this agreement with the six countries," IIHF president Rene Fasel said. "I regret deeply that a hockey nation like Russia is not part of it. We did everything we could to convince them to join but the owners of clubs of the Russian league were not willing to authorize the Russian ice hockey federation to sign the agreement.

"This was also a bump on the road toward what we two weeks ago assumed was NHL players' participation in Turin 2006, but this obstacle has now also been cleared and we can look forward to another Olympic hockey feast in February," Fasel said.

The Russian clubs would like to deal directly with NHL clubs in
determining player compensation.

Refusing to sign the agreement could leave the Russian federation at risk of losing its players for nothing; the NHL could lure any player it wants at any time without paying compensation.

The Czechs had initially balked at the terms of the agreement, saying the minimum amount of compensation the NHL pays to European federations to sign players is too low. However, they reversed their decision Tuesday.

"Eight clubs were in favor while six were against," Lubos Kozeluh, a deputy head of the Czech federation, said in a statement.

According to Czech officials, the minimum compensation for any draft pick is set at $200,000. The Czechs wanted to raise it from the originally proposed $150,000 to $300,000.

"The deal is not a compromise, it's a catastrophe for my club," Zbynek Kusy, manager of Czech champion Pardubice, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"We would be able to sell our players to European clubs for much more than we will get from the NHL," he said.

Czech federation spokesman Pavel Barta said the deal was for one year. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy. Barta also said the transfer deadline was Aug. 26.

In the originally proposed five-year player transfer plan, the NHL would pay $12.5 million annually to a fund managed by the IIHF -- a $3.5 million increase from the previous deal.

In the compromise plan, Barta said that without the Russians, the NHL was to pay $9 million and the IIHF would distribute the money among six national federations and clubs that lose players to the NHL.

A total of 194 European players signed with NHL clubs during the now-expired 2001-04 player transfer agreement. Of those, 41 came from the Russian league.

Three hundred Europeans played in the NHL during the 2003-04 season, 29.5 percent of the league's total, according to the IIHF.