Understanding the process of playing
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
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
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.