TORONTO - European hockey has taken on an NHL look.
With an NHL lockout in place, more than 150 players have signed to play in European leagues, including Markus Naslund with Modo (Sweden), Jaromir Jagr with Kladmo (Czech Republic) and Ilya Kovalchuk with AK Bars Kazan (Russia).
Most of the players have lockout clauses that allow them to return to the NHL if and when the labor impasse ends. For now, European teams are taking advantage.
Besides Naslund of the Van couver Canucks, Modo also signed his teammates Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Niklas Sundstrom (Montreal), Pierre Hedin (Toronto) and Peter Forsberg (Colorado).
Forsberg has indicated he will play the entire season with Modo.
Only 17 Canadian players are headed to Europe, with many others preferring to compete in a four-on-four exhibition series in Ontario and Quebec.
The Czech league has signed 47 NHL players: Jagr of the New York Rangers and Tomas Kaberle of Toronto skate for Kladno; Martin Rucinsky of Vancouver is with Litvinov; Ziggy Palffy of the Los Angeles Kings is with Slavia Prague; Radek Bonk of Montreal is with Trinec; and Patrick Elias of the New Jersey Devils is with Znojmesti Orli.
The Russian league has 33 NHL players. Besides Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers, there's Andrei Markov of Montreal and Pavel Datsyuk of Detroit (Dynamo Moscow); Sergei Gonchar of Boston (Met. Magnitogorsk); and Garth Snow of the Islanders (SKA St. Petersburg.)
The Swedish league signed 30 players, while the Finnish and Slovakia leagues signed nine NHL players apiece. Leagues in Austria, France, Italy and Germany also signed NHL players.
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