Philadelphia Flyers' forward Jakub Voracek sprained his knee while playing for HC Lev Praha this weekend in the Kontinental Hockey League. Further details aren't yet known, but hopefully this isn't a serious injury.
Anyone who reacts to this news by saying that the same thing could have happened in any National League Hockey game is missing the point.
Beyond the obvious
Everyone knows that hockey is a dangerous game and that injuries can occur at any time. Someone might also say that the 23-year-old could have have hurt his knee by slipping on a cheese steak as he walked into the Wells Fargo Center this season. But, making an absurd red hearing statement of that type would be just as foolish as casting aside concerns about those players who are working outside of the NHL this season.
Minimal information is available about the rink conditions in these European Leagues, the caliber of the referee's who are employed, or how high the overall talent level rises on any particular team. As such, no seasoned fan should assume that all conditions are equal and it's also fair to wonder if player safety is a concern.
Voracek proved to be a nice pickup from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the June 2011 Jeff Carter trade. The 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) that he tallied last season were similar to his totals from the two previous seasons and tied him with Wayne Simmonds for fourth place among the Flyers' scoring leaders.
Due to Jaromir Jagr's free agent agreement with the Dallas Stars, the Flyers planned on elevating Voracek to the team's top line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell this season. Of course, Jagr's age and 2012-13 salary requirements were part of the reason that general manager Paul Holmgren allowed the future Hall of Famer to depart.
The other half of Homer's roster consideration involved the presence and potential of Voracek. After the Nashville Predators matched the Flyers' massive free agent offer to Shea Weber, the team's top boss had a clear view of his available cap space. He used that forced knowledge to sign "Jake" to a four-year $17 million contract extension that lasts through the 2015-16 season.
After a single campaign in Philadelphia, this young right wing now figures to be a main part of the Flyers' future forward line plans.
Until the lockout ends
Due to the lockout, hardcore hockey fans have been dealing with the absence of their favorite professional League. As many NHL players pursue their individual hockey goals this season, everyone is hoping that they have productive experiences and are ready to return to North America whenever all business differences have been resolved.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He was a freelance sports writer for five years in the 1990s and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOBand also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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