Jets Begin Exodus To Europe

The exodus has begun.

Three days into the NHL's fourth lockout in twenty years and the Jets find themselves with a few of their own playing overseas already.

The first to go was goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, fresh off a newly signed five-year contract.

Pavelec opted to play for HC Ocelari Trinec in the Czech Extraliga in the Czech Reupblic.

After a season that saw him carry the bulk of the work with a 29-289 record, Pavelec seemed eager to get back on the ice despite the lockout.

Joining Pavelec on the exodus east was newly signed Alexei Ponikarovsky who signed with Donbass Donetsk – a Ukranian team in the Kontinental Hockey League.

The 32-year-old Ukranian opted to go home to play as well after a season that saw him make it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in his career.

While those two are the first Jets to go, others, such as captain Andrew Ladd, Olli Jokinen, Antti Miettinen, and, for now, Alexander Burmistrov are in Winnipeg working out at the MTS Iceplex in hopes that a season will be in the works for later on.

"We're here now. We'll try to stick with our routine and stay ready." Jokinen told the Winnipeg Free Press (9/18/2012).

"And if we have to, then we start looking to play someplace else. There's a lot of leagues in Europe."

For captain Andrew Ladd it's a matter of finding a place to play if the NHL decies to lockout long term.

"I'm exploring those options," Ladd commented to Ed Tait of the Free Press.

"I just want to play somewhere and if the NHL doesn't give us the opportunity here then I'll find elsewhere to do that. That was their prerogative to lock us out and it's ours to find somewhere else to work." (9/18/2012)

Not only are there Jets players on the MTS Iceplex ice these days, but other fellow Winnipeggers, such as New Jersey Devils' centre Travis Zajac, St. Louis Blues winger Ryan Reaves, and former Manitoba Moose winger Jannik Hansen.

All trying to make sure they are in shape when any calls come to play in North America or in Europe.

"We're all together in this," said Ladd.

"It's just other guys finding ways to keep busy and occupy their time. That's what it comes down to. I don't think the guys that aren't playing find it offensive at all."

For the players of the Winnipeg Jets and the NHL at large, it's about protecting the image of the game.

Now that the NHL has deemed it necessary to lock out the players, how will the NHL tarnish an image that they worked so hard to make decent since the last lockout?

Only time and actual talks tell.