There are spoiled athletes and then there is Ilya Kovalchuk, the $100 million kid who has yet to break the 100-point scoring barrier in a single season for the New Jersey Devils.
Still, the 29-year-old Kovalchuk is threatening to stay in Russia if the resolution to the latest National Hockey League lockout permits teams to reduce players’ salaries.
"I can play in the KHL for the whole year and I'll do it with great pleasure. I am glad that no matter where we play we get a full house and very good support from the spectators. And it's also nice to play on a good team,” he told Sportsbox.ru. “Basically, I don't rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL."
In 2010, the Devils signed Kovalchuk to a $100 million contract spanning 15 years.
"I just don't understand why they needed to sign such contracts," he said, according to the Toronto Star. "Or were they just hoping to cut the percentage later? I believe that the contracts must be respected and this is a fundamental question. There's no way the (union and players) will agree on the wage reduction.”
A season after the NHL netted a record profit, the lockout is threatening to erase the Winter Classic and another entire season. The 2004-05 lockout knocked out that season and culminated with Lord’s Stanley Cup not being awarded for the first time since 1919.
The league has already cancelled 135 games through Nov. 1. Today, Oct. 25, is the deadline for players to accept the league’s offer and still get in a full 82-game season. And that isn’t likely to following deputy league commissioner Bill Daly’s rebuff earlier this week of meeting again with the NHLPA, according to the Associated Press.
"The Union has rejected the proposal we made last Tuesday and is not offering another one. We see nothing to be gained at this point by meeting just to meet," Daly said, the Associated Press reported. In a statement, the union's special counsel Steve Fehr responded, "The league is apparently unwilling to meet. This is unfortunate, as it is hard to make progress without talking."
Some are predicting another mislaid season will cost the league, owners and players more than just lost money; it could cost them a North American fan base (particularly in the good ol’ USA were it doesn’t rival the big three: football, baseball and basketball).
So if Kovalchuk does make good on his threat to stay in Russia, he won’t be missed. Now, if this was an NFL lockout and Eli or Victor Cruz threatened to not come back, well that’s the unthinkable.