Updated April 20, 2005
Over 350 members of the NHL Players' Association took their game to Europe during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Career statistics are from the Internet Hockey Database
, and include this year's European numbers if available.
Joe Thornton, Niklas Hagman and Rick Nash were unstoppable in Switzerland, guiding HC Davos to the championship. Thornton had four goals and 20 assists in the playoffs; Hagman and Nash combined for 19 goals.
Pavol Demitra walked away with the Slovak scoring title. But Miroslav Satan was the playoff MVP, leading Slovan Bratislava to the league championship.
A great homecoming for Jochen Hecht, one of the NHL's few German-born players. After scoring 50 points in 48 games for the Mannheim Eagles, he led the playoffs with 17 points in 11 games.
Daniel Alfredsson and P.J. Axelsson carried Frolunda Indians to the Swedish championship. Alfredsson was the top playoff scorer with 18 points; Axelsson had 10 assists. Frolunda's NHL contingent also included Sami Salo, Sami Pahlsson, and Christian Backman.
Playing for Timra IK, Henrik Zetterberg won the Swedish scoring title with 50 points in 50 games.
Ales Hemsky scored 14 points in 16 playoff games as Pardubice won the Czech title. Martin Erat had an excellent year for Zlin.
Dynamo Moscow won its the Russian championship with an NHL assist from Maxim Afinogenov, Artem Chubarov, Pavel Datsyuk, Andrei Markov and Sergei Samsonov.
Ak Bars Kazan pulled a page from the New York Rangers' book, with similar results. Based in Kazan, a small city in the eastern republic of Tatarstan, the Snow Leopards spent a reported $65 million US on a roster that included Nikolai Khabibulin, Vincent Lecavalier, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexei Kovalev, Dany Heatley and Darius Kasparaitis. But the big names failed to produce and Kazan lost in the first playoff round. The Russian champions, Dynamo Moscow, had a budget reported at $20 million US.
Peter Forsberg returned to Modo, the Swedish team where he began his career and where his father is head coach. He was joined by Markus Naslund, Adrian Aucoin, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. But the homecoming never met expectations, as Forsberg sustained several injuries and Modo was eliminated in the opening playoff round.
Mike Knuble, Brendan Morrison and Kristian Huselius had it made in Linkoping, where they formed Sweden's best forward line. Huselius was the league's top scorer until February, when he was named in a police investigation of sexual exploitation. Huselius was released and Linkoping never got its groove back.
The Czech league was victimized by bidding wars. Jaromir Jagr, Martin Havlat and Patrik Elias were among those who began with Czech teams before bailing out for better offers in Finland or Russia.
Czech defenseman Pavel Kubina was having a solid year for Vitkovice until he accused a referee of taking bribes. That cost him a 15-game suspension.
Sweden was the most popular destination, with 84 NHLPA members. Their influence showed in the scoring race: besides Zetterberg, the top ten included Huselius, Mattias Weinhandl, Shawn Horcoff, Morrison, Knuble, and Marcus Nilson.
Russia hosted 70 NHLPA visitors, with a couple of teams said to be among the richest in Europe. Jagr led the playoffs with 13 points. But the top regular-season scorer was Maxim Sushinski, who played 30 games for Minnesota a few years ago. The highest-ranking NHL player in the scoring race was Aleksey Morozov of Kazan, who finished fourth.
The Czech Republic was home to 51 NHL players by season's end. League champions Pardubice also swept the top three spots in league scoring. Czech veteran Michal Mikeska was first, followed by NHL refugees Milan Hejduk and Jan Bulis.
43 NHLPA members opted for Switzerland. Besides Thornton, Hagman and Nash, the light schedule and Swiss amenities attracted Martin St. Louis, David Aebischer (a Swiss native), Jose Theodore and Alex Tanguay.
The best forward line in Slovakia might have been Michal Handzus, Richard Zednik and Vladimir Orszagh, playing for Zvolen. But they were shut down in the final series against Bratislava.
Teams in Finland hired stars like Teemu Selanne, Sami Kapanen, Miikka Kiprusoff and Saku Koivu. But the dominant team was Kärpät Oulu, winning 40 of 56 regular season games and the league title. Janne Niinimaa was the only NHL veteran with Kärpät.
The best team in Germany did not rely on NHL imports. Erik Cole and Nathan Dempsey were the only NHL regulars on Eisbaren Berlin. Mike York of Iserlohn Roosters placed second in a scoring race otherwise dominated by German League veterans. Doug Weight, a late arrival, was among the top playoff scorers with 12 points.
Other European destinations: Italy (Steve Rucchin, Stephane Quintal), France (Steve Reinprecht), Great Britain (Eric Cairns, Nick Boynton), Hungary (Rob Niedermayer), Denmark (Todd Simpson) and Norway (Scott Hartnell, Mark Bell).
Source: NHL Players' Association