The long lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 NHL season put a damper on game-type situations for many NHLers, but several members of the San Jose Sharks traveled to different parts of the world to make sure their hockey skills stayed up to par.
While some players used the extra time off to heal from the long 2003-04 campaign which saw the Sharks go deep into the playoffs, or to stay home with the family, others like Jonathan Cheechoo felt like the time away from the ice could be a disadvantage to him once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was finished. With that in mind, Cheechoo packed his bags and headed to to play for HV71.
“I felt I couldn’t miss a whole year of hockey because I’m still young and developing,” said Cheechoo. “I didn’t want to chance missing a year and regressing so I decided to go over to and it turned out to be a pretty positive experience.”
While in , Cheechoo got to faceoff against Sharks teammates Scott Thornton and Nils Ekman, as both made the same move to the country as he did. Facing his teammates was something that made the experience more enjoyable. But Cheechoo found out that hockey in isn’t quite the same as it is in the NHL.
“The league was pretty good over there,” he said. “It was very competitive, so it was fun to be in that atmosphere. It’s a different style of hockey they play over there, so you have to play like they do. I think it’s a little more defense than it is over here, so it was a new experience and I enjoyed it.”
Ekman, who tore up the league scoring 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) in 44 games, views the league a little differently.
“It was exciting to be home and play in front of family and friends, but the hockey is not the same,” he said. “You don’t feel as professional as you do here. It’s not the same challenge at all.”
One thing that Ekman and Cheechoo do share is the excitement for being back teal for the upcoming season. Rob Davison feels the same way. He enjoyed his stay in the .
“It was a very enjoyable experience,” said Davidson, who got married after the 2003-04 season. “It gave my wife and I an opportunity to travel around a little bit over there. It kept me busy during the lockout so I appreciate them letting me go over there and play, especially having to put up with me not knowing if I was going to have to leave the next day because of the lockout. Once we knew we weren’t going to be coming back, we got to travel around a bit more and see a different part of the world.”
Davison was the first NHL player to play in . He finished the season playing in 48 games and scoring 15 points (seven goals, eight assists).