(This was a pic of the print version of the article that I took with my phone when they ran it in the paper, don’t know if the quality quite measures up, though. The layout and premise of the piece is straightforward. The top portion is trying to portray the glittering glamour of an NHL game and the bottom literally portrays Binghamton as a graveyard – through a blue and yellow lens of course.
First off, let’s clarify some stuff about the article itself. They ran this in Sportbladet, on the sport pages of Sweden’s biggest paper. It was still poorly written in Swedish and its translatation is even worse. Also, they’ve kind of dumbed it down for the more casual sports fan, so there may be some things that are in the 'Captain Obvious' category.
Here is my translation:
Heaven and hell
“Just Google Binghamton. Have you been there? Don’t go there”
The difference between NHL and the minor league AHL have always been big. Nowhere is it bigger than it is between Ottawa and their farm team in Binghamton.
"If I wouldn’t have had a Swedish teammate I’d be gone three months ago", says André Petersson.
Sometimes there’s an excessive negativity surrounding the cities where the teams from the backyard of the NHL are located. Grey, dull, worn and depressed villages in the American rust belt.
In Binghamton’s case, that’s all true.
"You can just google Binghamton. The city is thought of as one of the most depressing in the US", says the former HV player and WJC star about his new hometown.
How are things for you, personally?
"Have you been there?"
"Don’t go there."
How’s the arena, then?
"We played Mattias Tedenby last week and he said it was the worst arena he’s been to in his entire career. David Ullström said the same thing when he played there."
WEATHER SUCKS (note: this is the actual mini-headline here, but it’s not quite as harsh in Swedish as in English. Mind you, it's not very flattering either.)
There are not many positives to talk about surrounding Binghamton as an AHL city. We met with André and goaltender Robin Lehner during a road trip in Manchester, New Hampshire, a far nicer place, and we’re happy that we didn’t have to take the de-tour to the two Swedes’ American hometown. They’ll have to keep dreaming about moving to the exact opposite of Binghamton – Ottawa, city of a million people, recently ranked the 14th best city to live in the world. Also, playing in front of 20 500 cheering Sens fans in the spotlight of Scotiabank Place rather than the mere 4000 on average in Binghamton’s Broome Arena.
Even the weather stinks.
Binghamton is ranked sixth worst amongst American cities, weather-wise. It’s a town where the sun almost never shines and it’s raining 162 days a year. To make things worse, the city’s geographic position makes it prone to flooding.
André Petersson have been able to leave this distressing town once this year, when he was up with the Senators for a week and a half.
"They said it was a reward for my work down here. But I only played one game and the coach told me too keep it simple. I played on the fourth line and got like five, six minutes. It’s not easy to just go in and be a factor, then."
But a lift, money-wise?
"Yes, a paycheck in the NHL is like an entire season down here."
That is another problem with being demoted to the minor league. A rookie on an entry-level deal earns less than ten percent of his NHL salary as long as he’s with the farm team. In André’s case, that means $65,000 instead of his NHL salary of $700,000. Not really a dream salary and less than half of what he would’ve made in the SEL.
André was thinking long and hard about going back to Sweden.
"Yeah, we talked up until the transfer window closed at January 31st, but finally I thought it would be stupid to give up when I was so close. I also get to play a lot in Binghamton. Lots of power play and even on the penalty kill, which I haven’t really done at any point during my career. Some games I’ve played close to 30 minutes and I’ve had to tell the coach to calm down."
Robin Lehner is on his third year in Binghamton and hockey-wise it’s been very successful. Last season the Binghamton Senators won the Calder Trophy, the AHL equivalent to the Stanley Cup, and Lehner was named the MVP of the playoffs. After that successful year, the big club in Ottawa promoted half the roster and this season has not been as successful.
“Don’t know if I could’ve handled it”
Though, the NHL dream is just a phone call away, and many have been in their situation before them. Erik Karlsson is currently leading the entire NHL in scoring for defensemen, but his first year he spent a month in Binghamton.
"You can do it, as long as you know you’re not here for life. I’ve got a girlfriend, too, and that helps a lot. Otherwise I don’t know if I could’ve handled it", says Erik.
And now, Erik Is one of the hottest players in the NHL.
André and Robin will have to wait their turn.
As you might have noticed by now, the view of Binghamton as a city and the AHL as a league through the eyes of a Swede, isn’t that great. The Swedish media, obviously SEL-biased, jumps at every chance to paint a picture of the AHL and everything about it as hell on earth. Not all Swedes can be the face of their franchise or lead NHL defencemen in scoring. The general belief has always been that young Swedish players should develop through the Swedish system, from juniors, to SEL-2 if needed, through SEL and finally through the in-season national team tourneys and World Championships. This is a point that can be debated in eternity, and is probably the second most controversial topic in Swedish press-boxes behind the appropriateness of the name “negerbollar” (make the translation yourself), the Swedish chocolate treat.
The points about Binghamton being a bad city and the propaganda from SEL fans and writers about players staying home in Sweden are understandable and not really that interesting. Fans of the league and the people covering it would obviously rather have good players playing in that league than in some league they would never hear about if it wasn’t for the odd newsflash that some Swede had been recalled or sent down. And Binghamton as a city – I haven’t been there myself – is probably not the most exotic place on Earth, but as a city, it is probably not that different from a small Swedish one.
The interesting part of the article isn’t really about that. Petersson wants to go home? Like, as of two weeks ago? While those versed in label-making of prospects are preparing to tattoo “bust” on André’s forehead, I’ll try to explain what I think is happening and what I feel should be done.
Addressing the argument of “well, SEL is a good league for development, too” – think about how few players that have gone back to Europe after “giving up” on North America actually return and make it to the NHL. It’s an extremely rare occurance. Is there reason to be worried in Petersson’s case?
Yes, there is reason to be worried (if you’re one of those who’s hoping for a future NHL career from Petersson, that is). The patience of a young Swede in the AHL does not go a long way, and aside from goalies, it’s very rare for a Swedish player to even play two straight full seasons in the AHL. Sure, André has gotten a glimpse of the NHL, but as stated in the article, he wasn’t impressed with the chance or lack thereof, rather, to impress the coaching staff. With the Sens being in the playoff hunt, there isn’t any room for the usual rebuilding team call-up late in the season to ease the prospect into NHL action, either.
Will André grow tired of the AHL and go home for next season? It’s tough to say. If his hometown team HV71 calls with a good offer, that’s always a risk, especially if he’s not feeling like he’s any closer to the NHL. How can the Murrays make sure he feels like he is? Even if he isn’t, how can they create the illusion that it is to keep him in North America?
If they really want to keep him, and they’re obviously not gonna hand him a roster spot just for the heck of it, they should still be enforcing some kind of special treatment. Get him up for a possible playoff run to be with the team. Tell him he’s close to the NHL even if he isn’t, give him a long, hard look in camp, and even if he’s sent down, tell him he’s gonna come up as soon and for certain. Yes, that does go against everything that the AHL is supposed to be in terms of paying dues and earning your chances. No, it doesn’t look all that good to give special treatment to a guy who’s been on the ice for five minutes in the league. But it’s a game of hockey politics you will have to play if you’re gonna take the chance of developing European players through the AHL.
To keep Petersson in the organization the Senators are gonna have to make him feel like he’s close to the NHL. If he doesn’t, he might very well go back to Sweden, and if that happens, it’s very unlikely that he ever comes back, and certainly not to Binghamton. Especially not if he has Googled it.