Hockey fans all throughout the United States and Canada got an extra holiday this year when four days ago, the NHL and NHLPA have come to terms on a new CBA agreement to last for 10 years. While the league and the players union played chess for 113 days, fans all over the globe expressed their disgust with the real life Gru aka Gary Bettman (see Dispicable Me for the reference mention), the nightmare of a situation between the two sides, and picked up the vocabulary of a big rig driver. Now that the swords have been sheathed, all the drama can go away right? Well, not so fast.
With the NHL season expected to start up on January 19, 2013, some of the best players to ever tape a stick are still in Russia or overseas. The biggest names to top that list include Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, New York Islander, Lubomir Visnovsky, and the New Jersey Devils’ winger, Ilya Kovalchuk. While Datsyuk verbally confirmed he’ll be returning to Detroit to honor the last two years of his contract after the KHL All Star Game Sunday January 13, Kovalchuk seems determined to take his time deciding the next move. Is he looking for a “checkmate” move or just trying to stick it to the league and his franchise letting them know they’re playing with fire? Either way, there’s no better way to tick off an already fired up Devils fan base then to potentially be the 2nd player to bail on his team, if that’s even the case.
While you can’t take anything away from Zach Parise with the quality player he is, you can bet lots of fans in NJ lost respect after his decision to play for the Wild in July 2012. The interesting twist to this whole Kovalchuk situation is that he already knows what he is going to do. I’m confident he’ll be back just like Lou Lamoriello is, however, he’s already rubbing some fans the wrong way.
We’ll have our answer within the next 4-5 days. So how does Kovalchuk feel about the whole situation?
We’ve heard rumblings of everything from him wanting to read the agreement before making a decision to staying in Russia, playing in front of friends and family, and how President of the KHL, Alexander Medvedev is willing to honor the NHL players contracts. While people are reading into this a lot more than they probably should be, it is a little uneasy to think there’s a possibility we lose another top scorer as the Russian hockey player stereotypes continue to live up to their reputations.
As far as the teams point of view and Uncle Lou’s, they have no reason to believe Kovalchuk won’t be here. Making it so close to lifting the cup and coming up one game short has got to be fresh in his mind and be reason enough to be with the majority of the squad that helped him get there.
“He’ll be here,” Lou Lamoriello said of the situation. He keeps information close to the chest and we probably won’t hear that much more about the situation until after Kovi comes “home.” If, he returns “home.”