Hockey: Truly a Global Game

Oct 16, 2009

While looking over my fantasy hockey team I was truly amazed at the diversity of the sport.  Alex Ovechkin is from Russia.  Daniel Sedin is from Sweden.  Ryan Getzlaf and the vast majority of my players are from Canada.  Jason Blake hails from Minnesota, where I reside.

When I think of all of the international players in the league, I’m somewhat amazed that 80% of the league (24 of 30) teams are based in the United States. Only Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver host NHL teams.

I can’t imagine how difficult an adjustment it must be the younger players who leave their homeland to play professional hockey in another country.  Initially the adjustments would be simple in nature.  Not only would they be leaving their family and friends, but they would be going to a new place that is quite likely far different from where they grew up.

Experiencing culture shock would not be uncommon, especially someone coming from rural Canada to a major U.S. metropolis such as New York or Los Angeles.  On the rink there wouldn’t be any problems, but once they left the hockey arena, they would have to deal with unfamiliar surroundings and possibly language barriers.

Finding a place to live, and possibly living on their own for the first time would also be challenges a young hockey player would have to face.  This would also be difficult for a domestic player, but even more so for an international one.

Canadians can drive in the United States due to a reciprocal agreements that the United States and Canada have, but if they would need to obtain a U.S. Driver’s License and insurance for permanent residence.

Perhaps the greatest challenge would be the logistics of working in a foreign country.  Labor laws, tax issues, and work visas can be quite complicated.  Agents and accountants can help, but this could leave the athlete feeling quite helpless.

Athletes can obtain an American visa based on ability and international acclaim.  For example, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin are considered athletes of  “extraordinary ability” that have excelled in their field and therefore would be issued O-1 visas.  Typical athletes who have a contract with a professional team are issued P-1 visas.  Athletes playing under a minor league contract are typically issued a seasonal H-2B visa, which is good for up to a year.

The key is to surround yourself with the right people who will help overcome these obstacles without trying to take advantage of the situation.

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