Souray says hooray for Europe gig

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

For some players, spending the season in Europe was a way of staying busy.

For Sheldon Souray, it was a way of staying in the National Hockey League.

"If I had taken the year off, that would have meant that I'd have been out of action for three-and-a-half of the last four years," the oft-injured Souray said. "I couldn't allow that to happen.

"I guess I'd have been well rested, but I don't know how good I'd be when we got back."

Like most of the NHL players who went to Europe, Souray didn't do it for the money. Like everyone else, these players had no idea when the owners would end their lockout.

But they wanted to be sure that if they got a call to report to training camp, they'd be ready to play -- and, if possible, be better players than they were when they left.

So Souray, who plays for the Montreal Canadiens when the NHL is in action, signed with Farjestads in Sweden and for the most part, enjoyed the experience, not only because he was back on the ice, but also because he was away from the bleak state of hockey in North America.

"I went home for Christmas and everybody was in a bad mood because they were missing hockey," Souray said. "Over in Sweden, you didn't think of it as much. You have your own life and it gives you a diversion. Our league was going on and it takes your mind off it.

"We went to the finals, so that made it seem worthwhile. It makes you feel that you've accomplished something instead of just sitting around waiting for the lockout to end."

The move to Sweden wasn't without its drawbacks. Souray lives in Los Angeles and his wife, who is an actress, had work commitments of her own and couldn't make the trip to Europe.

But Souray looks on the bright side.

"I'm here now playing for Team Canada," he said, "and I know I never would have been picked if I'd just stayed at home all winter."

Team Canada made the trip to Prague from Latvia yesterday in preparation for tomorrow's final exhibition tuneup against the Czechs before the team's first tournament game on Saturday against Latvia in Innsbruck.


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