The Mississauga IceDogs drafted their first European player in the Ontario Hockey League team's three-year history yesterday.
Part-owner Don Cherry refused in the past to have European players on his team because he didn't want them taking spots away from Canadian players.
But after only three wins last season and just 16 overall in the team's first three years, Cherry bit the bullet.
The IceDogs traded the No. 2 overall pick in the Canadian Hockey League's import draft to the Kitchener Rangers, dropped to No. 11 and chose Russian forward Igor Radulov, a third-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2000 NHL draft.
"I expect to have Europeans. I held out as long as I could," Cherry said yesterday.
"I did it for the Mississauga fans who supported us. I can't be selfish. I still believe [the team]should be for Canadians."
The IceDogs got a third-round pick in the 2002 priority draft in the trade with Kitchener.
"We were confident we were going to get the guy, so we switched," Cherry said. "[General manager]Trevor [Whiffen]and I talked it over."
Mississauga also has the No. 2 overall pick in the second and final round today. Each of the 55 Canadian Hockey League teams have the option of drafting or trading their two European picks, but teams are allowed only two foreign players each. Some have already met the quota and would look to trade their picks or pass.
Cherry said Radulov and the other player the IceDogs plan to select today both have the same agent -- Mark Gandler -- as Alexei Yashin.
"He assures me that these guys will come, at least one of them anyhow," Cherry said. "If you get one out of the two, you're doing pretty good."
Cherry hopes the two imports would make his team more competitive.
"I think they are or I wouldn't get them," he said. "They can score goals, there's no doubt about that. But I'm going to be coaching and we would have been competitive without them, but they'll just make it all the better."
The risk with all players from overseas is that often the player doesn't want to come to North America. There have also been problems securing the players' releases from European federations.
The expansion Vancouver Giants, who will begin playing in the Western Hockey League this fall, drafted Czech forward Marian Havel with the first overall pick because the team was assured by his agent, Rich Winter, that Havel would be in Vancouver in September.
"He's supposed to be a smooth centreman with good hands," said Giants general manager Scott Bonner. "He's [NHL]draft-eligible next season, which was important to us. We feel he can play on our top two lines at centre ice and help us for three years."
Havel's brother Lukas played for the OHL's Brampton Battalion last season. Bonner sees Marian as the team's No. 2 centre next season behind Jeremy Jackson, who played for Michigan State last season.
The Giants have the option of carrying five 20-year-olds in their expansion year, which Bonner believes will help Havel's development.
"We have an older expansion team compared to some of the ones in the past couple of years," Bonner said.
"We felt we could take a younger player and hopefully take the pressure away from him and let our 19- and 20-year-olds carry the team for the early going until he adjusts."
Havel has played a year of midget hockey in Colorado and speaks English well, Bonner said.