NHLers’ lockout teams winning championships

John Tavares playing for Bern in Switzerland during the NHL lockout.

Of all the far-reaching effects the four-month NHL lockout had on the sport of hockey, consider this one:

The playoffs have yet to even begin and already a handful of players can boast about contributing to a championship this season.

Hundreds of NHLers scattered overseas during the work stoppage and at least a few built strong bonds with the teammates they played with and the communities they lived in. Upon returning to North America in January, they didn’t simply forget about whatever European league they left behind.

So there was at least a twinge of pride earlier this week for John Tavares and Mark Streit – the New York Islanders who spent the lockout playing for SC Bern – when they heard about their former team winning the Swiss League championship.

While obviously not a full member of that victorious squad, Tavares acknowledged that he felt part of that victory “in a small way.”

“I developed a lot of great friendships there – there’s quite a few Canadian guys on that team and we still communicate a little bit,” Tavares said Thursday. “I’m happy for them. It’s a great achievement; it really is a great league.

“There’s lots of attention (on them) and people in Bern really care about that team, there’s a lot of pressure to win there.”

Tavares spent more than half of the regular season with Bern – appearing in 28 of 50 games – and wound up tied for second in team scoring with 42 points. He had returned to North America by the time the Swiss league playoffs got underway.

Without Tavares and Streit, Bern survived two seven-game series before dispatching Fribourg in the six-game championship.

From afar, the Islanders kept a close eye on what was happening.

“We kept following them throughout the playoffs,” Tavares said. “It’s great to see them come through and I’m happy for those guys.”

The same type of story will eventually be told in each of the European leagues, and to a lesser extent the American Hockey League, thanks to an unprecedented amount of turnover and movement throughout pro hockey.

It was certainly a little strange to see Edmonton Oilers rookie Justin Schultz recognized as the AHL’s top defenceman recently.

There were at least three NHL players who were thrilled to see Dynamo Moscow win the KHL’s Gagarin Cup over Traktor Chelyabinsk on Wednesday.

Washington Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were each part of that team during the lockout, as was Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

All three players are expected to receive a championship ring, according to Komarov.

The Leafs winger acknowledged that it will be a little strange, especially since he appeared in just 13 games for Dynamo this year (Ovechkin played 31 while Backstrom suited up in 19). However, Komarov spent the previous three years in Moscow prior to coming to North America and seemed to take pride in the team’s continued success.

“Back to back,” Komarov said. “They did a good job. All of the guys that won I played for three or four years. I’m close with the coach too.

“I’m happy for them.”

It was only a year ago that Komarov helped Dynamo capture its first KHL title. That remains his fondest hockey achievement – Finland’s world championship victory in 2011 isn’t far behind – and earned him a flashy piece of jewellery.

Just like Stanley Cup champions, those that win a title overseas receive diamond-encrusted rings to commemorate the achievement.

“I’ve got it back home in Finland,” Komarov said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Thanks to the teammates he left behind in Russia, a second one will be added to the collection soon.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.