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Vanek leaves Austrian team, returns to Buffalo

Nov 5, 2012, 11:59 AM EDT

Thomas Vanek AP

Thomas Vanek is coming home — and ready to play in the NHL again.

That’s the word out of Austrian on Monday as Vanek left the Graz 99ers after his monthlong contract expired.

The Sabres sniper notched 15 points in 11 games for the 99ers and praised the level of play in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, calling it “good, fast hockey” — yet was noncommittal about returning, saying he’s hopeful CBA negotiations have taken a turn for the better.

“I get asked if I’ll return after the international break all the time,” Vanek said on his website. “That may well be, but certainly not right after the break. I want to wait how the negotiations between league and PA are going.

“It seems as if things are going forward a bit.”

The international break covers the first two weeks of November and is often used by a number of NHLers to return home (like Boston’s Tyler Seguin.)

That said, most go home with the intention of returning to Europe.

Oh, and since we profiled Matt Duchene’s displeasure with Swedish League officiating earlier, here’s an interesting note — Vanek took time to rip Austrian league referees in his farewell post.

“What I certainly will not miss are the referees,” he said. “Their performance was… well, let’s just say that I’d rather forget about them.”

Now, this isn’t meant to be a “grass isn’t always greener” post. Far from it. Vanek was hugely complimentary of his time in Austria, calling it a once in a lifetime experience — but at the same time, it’s hard to ignore successive complaints about poor European officiating…from two fairly noteworthy NHL stars.

It’s just another reminder that, at the end of the day, these guys clearly miss playing in the best league in the world.

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