Twenty-seven years into this gig covering the Avalanche, and I don’t ever recall anything like this. The now seven-day wait for Artturi Lehkonen to get his immigration papers stamped so he can start playing hockey for the Avs after being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens.
It has become a meme on social media now, this wait for Lehkonen to be able to play for the Avs. Lots of guys who played on Canadian teams had quick procession to their new gigs with American teams, I’m quite sure of it. Yet, for some reason (lack of staffing at the INS, Covid-related??), Lehkonen can’t get the rubber stamp he and the Avs need and are becoming victimized now by a major delay on this seemingly routine thing for pro athletes.
Is there some troublesome thing with this process involving Lehkonen? Not that I’ve heard. He’s a solid citizen of Finland, via Canada and, now, hopefully, the U.S. Who knows what kind of monkey wrench was thrown into this, if any. Maybe it’s still just an outcrop of our weird, crazy, security-conscious times in which we are still living in its remnants.
But time is starting to get short on the rest of the regular season. The Avs acquired this guy because they think he can be a key in them winning the next Stanley Cup. But we’re going into our second week now in waiting for this to get done.
Jared Bednar no doubt wants to get this guy into his lineup as fast as he can to start evaluating what role he should have for the playoffs. The Avs lost on Sunday in Minnesota, 3-2 in overtime, and I thought this was the kind of game Lehkonnen could have swung the difference in favor of the Avs.
Lehkonen is, by all accounts, a very good defensive player who could have really helped in a game like this at Xcel Energy Center. I bet he would have helped shut down that Wild power-play goal that helped tie the game in the third period, and maybe on the one in overtime.
Yet, the Avs somehow seem to have gotten the 1985 version of the DMV to get this thing done. What is the big delay? I’ve been in touch with Avs people on this, and they say they are simply at the mercy of the bureaucratic process. Everybody is just waiting to get the OK from the powers that be.
I remember when the Avs traded for Theoren Fleury from the Calgary Flames in 1999, and the next day he was on a plane to Denver to play the next night for the Avs. The Avs have acquired other players from Canadian teams near the deadline and always gotten them in uniform in timely fashion.
Teams at this deadline got players from Canadian teams and got them into the lineup quickly. Ontario native Nick Paul was obtained by Tampa Bay from the Ottawa Senators a week ago and has already played four games with the Lightning.
Again, what’s the holdup?
According to Avs coach Jared Bednar, Lehkonen won’t be able to play for the team in Calgary on Tuesday, unless his paperwork is approved before they take off from Minnesota to Calgary. So, that means Lehkonen might have nearly two weeks of rust on him before he makes his realistic first appearance with the Avs. He remains a temporary resident in “Hotel Limbo.”
This is starting to become a real issue here. Again, we don’t know if there’s something the Feds are looking at closer with this, or is, more likely, just another example of how things have gotten delayed in business/life the last two years?