Things might look grim for the Halifax Mooseheads right now when it comes to getting Martin Frk on their roster, but owner Bobby Smith is putting on a brave face.

The International Ice Hockey Federation ruled on Friday the 17-year-old rising hockey star has a valid and binding contract with Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic and rejected his transfer to the Mooseheads.

On the surface, it would seem the third overall Canadian Hockey League import pick will never play in Halifax.

“Today was not positive for us, obviously,” Smith acknowledged. “But, hey: We understood how good of a player this was and we understood the risk when we decided to take him.”

Smith received a copy of Frk’s contract, which he said expires following the 2011-12 season, earlier this month as part of Karlovy Vary’s dispute to the IIHF.

Smith’s response to the IIHF included affidavits from Frk and his parents “stating that they didn’t think it was a valid contract because he was subject to extreme duress in order to get him to put his name on it.”

The IIHF didn’t agree, stating the “contract was validly signed by the player’s parents and was not terminated according to the expiration of the contract, mutual agreement of the parties, or just cause,” and therefore did not approve the transfer under IIHF International Transfer Regulation Section II Article 4.5.

Smith outlined his options as follows. He can appeal the ruling to the IIHF if he has “new evidence” to present, and he has a law firm in Prague “taking a look at some different angles.” If that fails, he can appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Finally, and perhaps the most realistic option, is to negotiate Frk’s release directly with Karlovy Vary. But Smith said Karlovy Vary general manager Miroslav Vanek hasn’t “been open to any kind of negotiation” to date, making the most obvious solution difficult.

Vanek has not yet responded to Metro’s requests for an interview.

Frk’s agent, Allan Walsh, brought Frk to Montreal at the end of July to participate in an annual Octagon Hockey Agency training camp and Tweeted that Frk was “heading to Halifax” on Aug. 15. That may have ruffled Karlovy Vary’s feathers, but Smith said he diffused the situation.

“I got copied on a letter from Karlovy Vary, sent to the IIHF at the end of July, saying Halifax has got this guy over in Canada at their training camp,” Smith said. “I had to respond and (correct that) … And that was the end of it.”

Frk, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound left-winger, is touted as a potential first-round pick in the 2012 NHL draft. He had 55 points and 184 penalty minutes in 38 games at the Czech under-20 level last season and has drawn comparisons to Boston Bruins legend Cam Neely.

As bleak as it looks right now, Smith isn’t ready to move on just yet.

“The player and his family want him to be playing in Halifax,” Smith said. “We’ll see what happens next.”


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