European leagues are lousy with NHLers staying in shape and making a buck (here’s a reasonably up-to-date map), but there’s a certain superstar who’s nowhere to be found. It’s not that Sidney Crosby has an overriding loyalty to North America, nor that he’s super-optimistic about the lockout ending soon. No, the reason he’s not playing competitive hockey is that his brain doesn’t work so well.
Crosby has played just 22 games over the last season-and-a-half, thanks to concussions, post-concussion syndrome, and a “neck injury” that’s code for “oh god, more concussion problems, call it a neck injury.” He’s also got a 12-year, $104-million contract that’s going to kick in in 2013. So Crosby is as valuable as he is fragile, and the risk of him getting injured in Europe is one that no one’s willing to assume cheaply. His agent says it could cost as much as $400,000 a month in premiums to insure Crosby if he plays in Europe or in domestic charity games.
"It’s not as easy as just going to play," he said. "If it was, I’d be playing in a lot more of those."
Since it’d be the European team or charity organizer that’d have to cover his insurance, it’s simply not going to happen. But leaving aside that cost, there’s honestly zero reason for Crosby, and really any superstar rich enough to not worry about the money, to be playing overseas—except perhaps as leverage.
The NHLPA has encouraged members to take jobs where they can be found, as a message to the owners that they don’t need the league as much as the league needs them. Meanwhile, the owners who have been hemorrhaging money are totally content to see the entire season gone. Every day the lockout goes on without further talks is another day of each side digging in, proving that they won’t budge from certain inflexible (for now) demands. Sometimes, the best negotiation tactic is to not negotiate.