Statement of intent but is the gap about to get wider?
THE more well-off (or should that be less skint?) clubs in the Elite League have certainly made a statement of intent by signing NHL lock-out players.
And we could yet see more over here with the latest talks having again broken down, with the players union not prepared to take a further cut in their slice of the league's massive revenue which reached a record $3.5billion last season.
Following on the lead of Nottingham Panthers, who were quick to move for Carolina Hurricanes' Anthony Stewart (262 NHL games), sister club Braehead Clan have signed Detroit's Stanley Cup winner Drew Miller (280), bruiser Tom Sestito (14) of Philadelphia has joined Sheffield, while Coventry have picked up Anaheim Ducks' forward Matt Beleskey (167).
Seeing NHL players is great for the fans and, as a player, who wouldn't want to be on the same ice as someone from the top league?
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But with all due respect, none are top-end players as many of the stars have gone to Europe, with the lure of the Swiss franc tempting the likes of Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg, San Jose's Joe Thornton, Rick Nash of Columbus and Boston's Tyler Seguin.
The UK NHLers have all admitted they are coming here to maintain their match fitness and gain lots of ice time – certainly more than they are used to – in a league that plays a similar North American style of game.
But as they are all theoretically on short-term contracts they could in effect leave before their three-month 'visa' runs out should the NHL eventually start and will be gone by Christmas or the New Year.
It would make sense therefore that if these players will not be coming back, the teams should either be looking at long-term replacements or just bringing in European-born NHLers, who could stay without visa restrictions.
In the meantime, let's just hope the gaps between the 'have' and the 'have-nots' doesn't get any wider.
For while Panthers, Coventry, Sheffield and Braehead will be hoping the NHL factor brings increased attendances, teams at the other end of the scale like Hull and Edinburgh will suffer.
Hull, at the National Ice Centre tonight (7pm), have perhaps their best team for a while . . . yet they haven't won for six games. For them, bigger crowds are everything. Losing week after week is not an option.