Hockey players head to Europe – but will they come back?

As the lockout continues, one NHL star says he might not return from abroad

By Nicholas Nehamas

NHL star Alexander Ovechkin celebrates his goal since returning to Russia with former club Dynamo Moscow, September 23, 20212.

Every Monday we scour the American regional press to take the pulse of how international connections are impacting our life here in the U.S.  Today’s stories come from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Miami.

European ice seduces NHL stars

Talk about jobs going overseas: hockey players are fleeing America to lace up their skates in Europe. The National Hockey League and the players’ union are locked in a bitter labor dispute, and the team owners have locked their stars out. That means the entire season could be canceled and the players are free to play for teams outside the U.S.

Now, two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin, who recently signed a one-year deal with Dynamo Moscow, has told reporters in Washington that he may not come back if the league decides to cut player salaries. It could be a scare tactic designed to get negotiations going again: Ovechkin has nine years and $88 million dollars left on his contract with the Washington Capitals. Should Ovechkin stay in Russia if and when the NHL returns, the Caps could sue him for breach of contract.

But the physically imposing left-wing is clearly unhappy with the league’s owners.

“It’s not us who stop the NHL, it’s the league stop the NHL [sic],”  Ovechkin told the Washington Post. “[Commissioner Gary] Bettman and the owners stop NHL. They don’t play hockey, they don’t block the shots, they don’t fight, they don’t get hit. They just sit in a box and enjoy the hockey.”

Hockey-mad Russia is the top destination for jobless NHL stars, but other players will be hitting the ice in Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and, oddly enough, Switzerland, where taxes are low and the living is easy.

America in demand the world over

The world doesn’t just want our hockey players – it’s also taking our natural gas. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “drilling companies are extracting so much natural gas from formations like Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale that they want to export the fuel overseas, provoking opposition from some who say that American gas should stay at home.”

Last week, Latitude News wrote about how American coal companies are shipping their fossil fuel to foreign markets, mainly in Asia, to make up for static domestic demand. The situation with natural gas is different, since American consumers are using more and more of the stuff.

According to the Inquirer, utility companies like Philadelphia Gas Works are concerned that exporting gas could mean higher prices for American consumers. One government study agreed with that assessment (the Obama administration recently delayed that study’s second part until after the election).

An executive with an Exxon Mobil subsidiary disagrees. “The important thing is, we can do it all,” Jack Williams told the Inquirer. “It’s not an either-or. We can support plenty of gas for American consumers in terms of electricity generation or heating our homes or our manufacturing sector, for niche applications in the transportation sector, and for export. We can do all that.”

But is “fracking,” the proccess through which much natural gas is extracted, worth the risk? That’s a globally divisive question, as Latitude News reports.

Get out the vote – early and often

Finally, we head to Miami, where so-called “ballot brokers” vie to collect the most absentee ballots from the city’s elderly residents. Boloteros have long been a part of the culture among the city’s Spanish-speaking peoples, according to the Miami HeraldNow, they’re becoming popular in Miami’s growing Haitian population.

“Brokers tout their skills on Creole-language radio,” the Herald writes, “pitch their services to candidates running for office in cities that boast a sizeable Haitian electorate and even brag about their vote-getting prowess on business cards emblazoned with slogans like ‘Queen of the absentee ballots.’”

After two boloteros were arrested for fraud last month, independent observers are worried the process could taint Florida’s elections.
One elderly Haitian woman told the Herald reporter she wasn’t even sure who she voted for.
“I let them fill the ballot for me because I don’t know who to choose. They vote for who they wanted,” she said. “When they finish, I sign my name, I give it back to them and I guess they did whatever they wanted with it.”

It’s illegal in Florida for anyone to turn in more than three absentee ballots.

Sounds like the state legislature should consider cracking down on absentee ballot fraud instead of passing laws that, according to a panel of federal judges, prevent African-Americans and Hispanics from voting.