Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane hopes his signing with Swiss team will strike a nerve
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org October 24, 2012 10:30PM
Updated: November 26, 2012 7:24AM
In a few days, Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane and his mother, Donna, will board a flight bound for Switzerland. Not long after that, he’ll be playing for a team that has nothing to do with Chicago.
If anyone should be nervous about it, it’s Rocky Wirtz.
Kane might be the first member of the Hawks’ oft-praised core to sign overseas during the NHL’s lockout, but if talks with the NHL Players’ Association continue to stall, he won’t be the last.
Seeing Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik suiting up for European teams might be tolerable, but seeing Kane and possibly Jonathan Toews do it — and risk injury — should be unsettling.
“We want to be playing here in Chicago. We want to be playing for the Blackhawks,” Kane said. “Hopefully, the fans know that because that’s deep down where we want to be. [The lockout is] just something that … keeps going on and on.”
Kane and Toews said Wednesday that they hope that the continued European exodus of North American-born players, especially ones with Kane’s status, will pressure some owners — including Wirtz —to accelerate negotiations.
“Hopefully for the owners, for the players and for everyone involved in these negotiations, it does spark some life into the negotiations,” said Kane, who signed with EHC Biel of the Swiss National League on Tuesday. “Hopefully, it helps the talks, and they can figure something out. But for me personally, I’m just looking forward to playing hockey again.”
Toews fully supports Kane’s decision, too.
“I don’t think it means we don’t care about our situation here,” Toews said. “That’s first and foremost, but at the same time, there has to be some sort of sign of effort from the other side and we haven’t seen that yet.
“It still seems like [the owners are] on a timeline, and they’re waiting for a certain date to try and push us to the brink and see how much they can squeeze out of us. We’re hockey players. At the end of the day, if there’s jobs and opportunities out there, we have to explore that. There’s nothing against those players going over there.”
For players such as Kane and Toews who have lucrative contracts, there isn’t an extravagant amount of money to be had in Europe. It’s role players such as Bickell who can really benefit.
Kane and Toews have matching NHL contracts with $6 million salaries for the 2012-13 season. Kane said his deal with EHC Biel essentially covers the costs of insuring his Hawks contract, while providing a little more.
“It’s not a crazy amount of money,” said Kane, who also had offers from teams in Sweden and Russia.
Some NHLers have suffered injuries in Europe — a concern most owners and general managers have — but Kane said it doesn’t worry him.
“You can get hurt in hockey any time,” Kane said. “I’m just trying to play some games.”
Toews is willing to wait longer before deciding on Europe, but teams have been interested in him for a while. Toews took part in the latest formal negotiations, and it infuriates him that the NHL doesn’t want to honor contracts.
“Hockey players only have a limited time to play and to earn a living as a hockey player, and you have to give everything you can,” Toews said. “You sign a deal that changes your life and makes things better for you and your family, and someone tries to take that away from you and take all your hard work and dedication away. It’s insulting, and quite frankly it’s embarrassing for them.
“We can be proud of what we’ve stood up for so far. There’s no shame in that.”