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September 18, 2012 | 7:30pm ET
Understanding the process of playing overseas
Once an NHL player signs on with a European or Russian hockey team, it can take up to a week before he can hit the ice.

TORONTO, ON -- In the 67 and a half hours since the start of the NHL lockout, 35 NHL players have deals either in place or already signed with clubs over in Europe and the KHL.

We've seen the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Niklas Backstrom head to the KHL in the last few days, while Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Rick Nash have joined teams in Switzerland's National League A, and Jaromir Jagr, Tomas Plekanec and Ales Hemsky are ready to skate in the Czech Extraliga.

These guys aren't motivated by money -- they're earning a mere fraction of what the make in the NHL -- they simply want to remain competitive and play with top-tier athletes in other professional leagues.

As numerous NHL players fight for minimal spots overseas, some battling insurance issues and tax claims, all seemed well a good.

Until this afternoon.

My buddy Dmitry Chesnokov first broke the news on this part of the globe in an article he wrote for Yahoo!. Edmonton Oilers young star Nail Yakupov was supposed join the KHL club of Neftekhimik but the IIHF hasn't issued his transfer card yet, prompting speculation that delays were purposesly being made.

Shortly after the news broke that Yakupov hasn't received his ITC yet, I confirmed that New Jersey Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk is facing the exact same problem, despite having a press conference earlier today to welcome him as the captain of SKA in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I was also told Malkin and Ottawa Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar, both of whom signed with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, haven't received their ITCs either, and are unlikely to make their debuts on Thursday unless they get them beforehand.

A report in the Czech Republic also claims Jagr, Plekanec and Roman Cervenka are also having difficulties in getting their transfer cards.

However, speaking to another source, this one close to the Swiss league, none of the players that have signed with their clubs, such as Thornton, Nash, Couture, Mark Streit and Raphael Diaz, among others, have not yet run into any problems.

An International Transfer Card (ITC) is issued by the IIHF to every hockey player. It's purpose is three-fold. First, it helps regulate players from playing in different parts of the world. Second, it protects teams from signing players already under contract with another team in another league. And third, it prevents players who are penalized in one league for using illegal substances from skipping off and joining another league.

One IIHF official explained to me late this afternoon that they are not intentionally holding up any locked out NHL player's ability to play overseas, they are simply going through the motion.

An ITC needs three signatures from three separate parties -- the player himself, the outgoing federation (for example, Hockey Canada for Canadian-based teams and USA Hockey for US-based clubs), and the incoming federation (for example, the Russian Hockey Federation for Russian-based clubs). Once all three signatures are issued, it is approved by the IIHF.

"The IIHF never stalls or delays any transfers," the IIHF official said. "As soon as it has the three approvals, the player is good to go."

Two reports -- one in the Czech Republic and one in Russia, claimed the NHL was behind the "delays."

The NHLPA looked into the matter, I've been told, while the NHL insists they have nothing to do with it.

According to one high-level NHL executive, the League has not communicated with the IIHF about "the issuance of transfer cards" and hasn't been in contact with them since lockout began.

The entire process of issuing an ITC can take up to seven days. If the outgoing federation does not approve within that timeframe, the IIHF makes an inquiry and will approve the transfer if an appropriate reason is not given.

So when a player signs with a club in the KHL, the SM-Liiga (Finland), or HockeyAllsvenskan (Sweden), for example, and his insurance is obtained either personally or through the club itself, don't be surprised if that player doesn't officially play a regular-season game for them for about one week.

It can be frustrating for some, but it's a tiny price to pay to keep playing hockey during the NHL lockout.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.


 

 

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