“Fans … are petitioning on various Internet forums for Thomas to come to their town,” he said. “Thomas playing in Austria would give the league and the sport as a whole a big boost.”
Naturally, Vanek would sell lots of tickets.
“Thomas playing in Austria would also mean sold-out arenas wherever he would play,” Schleifer said. “The majority of Austria’s hockey fans have never seen Thomas play live. This would be their first and biggest chance.”
Meanwhile, the media, Schleifer believes, is writing more about the NHL now than it would during a regular season.
Schleifer said three teams have a realistic chance to sign Vanek: the Vienna Capitals, who have a good club, a large new arena and a respected coach; Red Bull Salzburg, an annual contender with money and former NHL coach Pierre Page; the Graz 99ers, who have a weak team, the least money and an old building but play where Vanek spent some of his childhood.
“I think teams over there are respectful,” Vanek said. “I told them I don’t want to give them any false hope because I want to be 100 percent sure I want to be there, not just go as a joke and as a parade or something. If I go, I want to be committed.”
Vanek’s parents and reporters have told him Austria’s amped for his possible arrival, something that flatters him.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Vanek said. “I know my name, the stature of myself has grown over there. … I’m not a person that’s looking for (attention).”
Vanek’s looking for better workouts. With players scattering and AHL camp opening, practicing has become difficult with less than 10 bodies.
More are bolting, too. Defenseman Andrej Sekera signed Tuesday with HC Slovan Bratislava, a KHL team. Defenseman Tyler Myers is heading home to British Columbia. The NHL canceled the rest of the preseason Thursday. Tilts on Tuesday at Columbus, Friday at Boston and Oct. 6 at home against Columbus are gone.