Photo Credit – Bridget Samuels (Flickr)
Thomas Vanek joined fellow teammates Christian Ehrhoff Andrej Sekera, and Tyler Ennis today in choosing to wait out this lockout overseas. Vanek will play in his hometown of Graz, Austria for the 99ers and could appear in the lineup as early as Friday. Vanek’s contract, much like Christian Ehrhoff’s, has stipulations. As of now, his contract runs through November 4th when the European leagues break for the national teams. There is also an opt-out clause so Vanek could return immediately to Buffalo should the lockout end.
While Vanek may not be the star attraction in Sabreland anymore, he’s nothing short of Alex Ovechkin to the people in Graz. The website for the Graz 99ers crashed when news of Vanek’s signing broke due to the excessive interest and excitement over Vanek returning to his home country to play. Tickets to see the hometown boy have also become a hot commodity, with people from all over Austria falling over eachother to get their hands on them.
Below is what Chris Schleifer of the Osterreich, a large Austrian newspaper, had to say about the new breaking of Vanek’s return to his hometown:
“This is just huge. The 99ers’ Web site has already crashed. Hockey fans from all over Austria are already buying tickets for the next games, no matter what teams they’re fans of. They want to see Thomas play live. All of the media outlets have the story as their No. 1 story. The Austria Press Agency sent it out in blue, which means ‘urgent.’ There are no words to describe it.”
It sounds like it’ll be all eyes on Van, much like it is here. The major difference being most of the fans over there will welcome him home with open arms. Here, many people undervalue Vanek and don’t appreciate his raw talent (whoch I believe is sometimes stifled due to line juggling and excessive defense…). As with Ennis, Ehrhoff and Sekera, I’m sure we are all wishing him well, but would prefer him and all players to be here playing instead of 10 time zones away. Stay tuned for more updates.