Anthony Stewart has become the first NHL star of the 2012 lockout to reach the EIHL. The Carolina Hurricanes 26 year old forward has signed to play with the Nottingham Panthers on a short-term contract and is expected to be in the line up by the time the Panthers play the Cardiff Devils on Tuesday.
Stewart is the first NHL play to arrive in the UK during this lockout but may not be last. Boston Bruins hard man Shawn Thornton had been spotted at the Odyssey Arena during last weekends home game against the Dundee Stars and Coventry Blaze head coach Paul Thompson hinted earlier this week that replacements would be sort for their injury woes and that an NHL player could be on the list.
The signing is a major coup for the Nottingham Panthers who had been under fire from their fans following a winless weekend, which included a home defeat to arch-rival’s Sheffield.
It is also big capture for the EIHL who now join the likes of the top leagues in Sweden, Switzerland and Russia in capturing an NHL signing early in the lockout.
Other NHL players have been busy finding temporary employment in Europe including Tukka Rask who snubbed his native Finland to join the Czech league. However the biggest capture of an NHL player by a lower rated European side may be about to come. It has been rumoured that Vancouver Canucks and Olympic gold medallist Roberto Luongo could be heading to top Italian side Bolzano Foxes.