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More Members of the Florida Panthers Go Elsewhere as the NHL Lockout Drags On: A Fan’s Take

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More Members of the Florida Panthers Go Elsewhere as the NHL Lockout Drags On: A Fan’s Take
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Tomas Kopecky of the Florida Panthers

Many of the Florida Panthers' players have found ways to stay on the ice despite the NHL lockout. The NHL recently announced another round of games will be cancelled. Last week the league cancelled all of its games through November 1.

Last week was a busy week for several Panthers players. Some announced that they were going to play for free while others announced that they were going to Europe. The one thing they all had in common is none of them will be playing hockey in South Florida anytime soon.

"Champs for Charity"

A couple of the Panthers will hit the ice on October 26, despite an NHL lockout. Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell will both take part in the "Champs for Charity" event, which will reunite members of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks to play a game to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana.

Kopecky Heads Home

Thomas Kopecky was also on the 2010 Blackhawks but he won't be joining Versteeg and Campbell for the charity event because he's currently playing in Slovakia. Kopecky is one of several European born NHL'ers who has signed overseas. If you want to track down Kopecky, you can find him on the ice for HK Dukla Trencin of Slovakia's top hockey league, the Slovak Extraliga.

Santorelli Goes Second Division

Many players have returned to their home countries but some, who are North American natives, are taking the leap to Europe. On October 15, the same day that Kopecky announced he would head overseas, Mike Santorelli announced that he would spend some time in Sweden.

Santorelli will spend the lockout playing for Tingsryds AIF of the Swedish second division. Santorelli is certainly good enough to play in Sweden's Elite League but due to strict transfer rules, many of the NHL's top players have found their way to Sweden's lower division. Santorelli will be joined in the second division by prominent players such as Anze Kopitar and Gabriel Landeskog.

Keeping Hockey in Canada

Unlike Santorelli, Jonathan Huberdeau has elected to stay close to home. The Panthers' first round draft pick in 2011 is currently playing as an amateur for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.

I'm glad that Huberdeau is staying active and playing competitive hockey but his level of play is far beyond what he is exposed to in the QMJHL. As of October 22, Huberdeau had put up an amazing 72 points in just 37 games. Huberdeau's presence in Saint John is a win-win, the kid gets a chance to stay in shape and the Sea Dogs get a chance to sell some tickets and fill the old barn with grateful fans.

I hate to see so many members of the Panthers so far away from Sunrise. Other European exiles include Dmitry Kulikov and Marcel Goc. A few players have remained in South Florida to train but the longer the lockout drags on; the more seem to be heading elsewhere.

More from this contributor:

Jonathan Huberdeau is Stuck in the Middle of the NHL Lockout: A Fan's Take

The Florida Panthers Cancel Regular Season Games: A Fan's Take

Dmitry Kulikov of the Florida Panthers Signs in Russia: A Fan's Take

Sources:

All statistics and standings from QMJHL.ca

All information on contracts from TSN.ca

Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein

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