Sign in / Join

Who's cheatin' who?

A Russian hockey club filed an antitrust lawsuit Thursday against the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins, saying rookie Evgeni Malkin shouldn't be allowed to play in the league because he remains under contract in his native country.

The Metallurg Magnitogorsk hockey club, which filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also demanded unspecified damages from the NHL and the Penguins over Malkin's deal to jump teams this summer. ....

Malkin was under contract for another year in Russia. The NHL had previously said the league believes any player should have the right to choose where he wants to play as long as he is legally free to do so.

After Malkin left his Russian team, he cited a Russian labor law that permits an employee to leave a job by giving two weeks notice.

The lawsuit, filed after a Russian arbitration panel ruled that Malkin is still under contract to Magnitogorsk, said the signing of Malkin to an NHL contract was a "blatant and deliberate tampering and interference" with the Russian team's existing agreement.

If this is just a contract dispute with Magnitogorsk's contract binding, then the issue is between them and Malkin. But if the NHL argues that contracts between players and NHL teams are binding (i.e the Bruins honor Rangers contracts), but not so between players and teams in other leagues (Magnitogorsk is a non-entity), are they not setting themselves up for a fall? This has the scent of a group boycott to me.

This suit would be unlikely in the world of soccer, where players commonly move back and forth between Russia and the rest of the world, with cash transfers between teams balancing value in the deal. My crystal ball says that the Penguins will have to pay off Magnitogorsk before this is over. And let's hope the NHL doesn't get in the habit of acting like an outlaw league.

You can read the full story here. Thanks to Bill West for the link.