Posts Tagged ‘KHL’


Finland named its roster for the World Championships after the completion of the Euro Hockey Tour in Brno, Czech Republic. The tournament ended in disappointment for the Finns, who lost all of its games in a tournament. When I watched a couple of games from the tournament, I thought that the team looked somewhat lacklustre and was never really a threat offensively. Defensively there were some questionable players on the ice, but at least, Finland’s goalies were strong.

 

The roster itself is a bit of a surprise from recent years, but upon reflection, it was to be expected. There are not that many Finns in the NHL and majority of them are taking part in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Let’s face it, the Stanley Cup is a bit bigger than the World Championships. The Finns that were left outside the playoffs were: Sami Salo (Tampa Bay), Kimmo Timonen (Philadelphia), Kari Lehtonen (Dallas), Pekka Rinne (Nashville), Lauri Korpikoski (Phoenix), Olli Jokinen (Jets), Antti Miettinen (Jets), Ville Leino (Buffalo), Joni Pitkanen (Carolina), Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina), Sean Bergeinheim (Florida), Lennart Petrell (Edmonton), Teemu Hartikainen (Edmonton), Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary).

 

So let’s take a look at that list. Salo, Timonen, Jokinen and Kiprusoff have all more or less retired from the national team and would only suit up for a major tournament, like the Olympics. Lehtonen, Rinne, Leino, Pitkanen, Ruutu, Bergenheim (did not play the whole season) and Petrell are all out due to injuries. Miettinen is healthy, but has had a tough season and I’m not sure whether he was asked to join the team.

 

The only one out of that list that has said that he would play is Lauri Korpikoski and his participation is pending a medical from Coyotes, which he has passed and will be joining the team for the start of the World Championships.

 

Since the list of guys who said no thanks to the World Championships, some influential members of the Finnish hockey community have criticised the decision. Hjallis Harkimo, owner of the Jokerit team said on Radio Nova in Finland that “When they (the players) need to get noticed and they need to get into the NHL, the national team is a must. When they have used the national team, then some of them are not interested at all. It’s wrong against Finland.”

 

Juhani Tamminen, former coach of TuTo in Mestis went on to say that “If my generation would have acted and thought like this, we would only have ten rinks and we would be a B-class country in hockey.”

 

 

Both were also critical of the leadership of the Coaching and general managers in the way that they approach the players. However, the chief of Finnish Ice Hockey Association, Kalervo Kummola was quick to defend the players who had said “no thank you” to the World Champs and said that all of the players who declined had good and valid reasons (either injuries or other matters such as contract negotiations to deal with)

 

Where yes, it would be a good thing to have all those names in the roster, I can’t help but wonder what these guys owe to the Finnish system? They have donned the jersey when possible and in the biggest competitions i.e. the Olympics. They have endured backlash from fans and media alike when after a gruelling NHL season they simply have nothing in the tank. Is that the type of players they want? Guys who would get into the team because of their name but are so tired and beat that they have nothing to give. There is no point in playing guys like that.

 

It’s OK for people to bellyache after players, but the reality is that the NHL is the main job for these guys, and the national team would be sort of like overtime if you will. I tip my hat to the guys who do come after a gruelling season and find that extra gear to dig deep for a while longer, but at the same time I don’t blame guys for saying no.

 

Let’s not forget that it is always a risk to the players to join the team as there are things like insurance to cover and the risk of injury is ever present. It’s not an easy decision to players, specially those with family, or who are facing free agency and can’t afford to risk injury.

 

The roster (see below) is nothing earth shattering and at on paper it doesn’t look like a championship contender, when compared to the likes of Canada or Russia who are loaded with individual talent.

 

I see that Finland’s opportunity is in how quickly the team gels together (properly). These guys have been together for the last EHT tournament and have gone through the camp together so I would expect that they are well on their way. I still question the playbook somewhat, but that’s up to the guys to assume and play to the coach’s instructions.

 

While I would like to see Finland staging an upset, I doubt that we will see the Finnish roster in the medal rounds, if we do, it is a massive feat from this team. The way I see this roster, after a lot of reflection, is that it is an opportunity for these guys to get noticed and maybe get big money deals from either the NHL or European leagues. The roster is relatively young and inexperienced at this level, which should feed the hunger for the players. I can see that one if not two of the Finnish goalies will be playing in North America after putting themselves in the shop window at the World Championships.

The Finnish roster is as follows:

Goalies,

Atte Engren – TPS – SM-Liiga
Joni Ortio – HIFK – SM-Liiga
Antti Raanta – Ässät – SM-Liiga

Defense

Juuso Hietanen – Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod – KHL
Lasse Kukkonen – Rögle – Elitserien
Teemu Laakso –  Severstal Cherepovets – KHL
Tuukka Mäntylä – Tappara – SM-liiga
Sami Lepistö – HC Lev Praha – KHL
Ilari Melart – HIFK – SM-Liiga
Ossi Väänänen -  Jokerit – SM-Liiga
Janne Jalasvaara – Dynamo Moscow – KHL

Forwards

Juhamatti Aaltonen – Rögle – Elitserien
Marko Anttila – TPS – SM-Liiga
Juha-Pekka Haataja – Kärpät – SM-Liiga
Niklas Hagman – Lokomotiv Yaroslav – KHL
Juha-Pekka Hytönen – Amur Khabarovsk – KHL
Pekka Jormakka – Pelicans – SM-Liiga
Miika Lahti – JYP – SM-Liiga
Petri Kontiola – Traktor Chelyabinsk – KHL
Jarno Koskiranta – Tappara – SM-Liiga
Janne Pesonen – Ak Bars Kazan – KHL
Antti Pihlström – Salavat Yulaev Ufa – KHL
Sakari Salminen – KalPa – SM-Liiga
Veli-Matti Savinainen – Ässät – SM-Liiga
Ville Viitaluoma – HPK – SM-Liiga 

Lauri Korpikoski – Phoenix Coyotes – NHL*

 

*Please note that I have not seen an updated team roster that would include the forward that will be dropped to accommodate Lauri Korpikoski. 

 

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I’ve recently seen a huge uptick in twitter and facebook accounts that promote hockey life style. There are legitimate companies out there, like Gongshow, Bardown, Sauce to name but a few, that have made a business out of the hockey life style.

 

Some of these ‘hockey life’ accounts are actually quite funny, but some of them are just downright terrible and sometimes give a totally different view of hockey than what the players actually go through. There are accounts out there that think that hockey is all about parties and wheeling. Yes, that does happen, but players these days are some of the most fine tuned athletes. Given the rules of the team and the intense schedules, partying is not the first thing guys do when they finish a game. Like said, parties happen.

 

As a result of all these accounts I thought that I’d give an insight into what the ‘hockey life’ is all about.

 

As mentioned on the blog before, I have a regular day job that is the main breadwinner for our family. My hockey life revolves around my job, weekly off ice training, on ice training and games. The only time that I have for drinks is to have maybe a beer or two after games and then a few more at the end of season party before I start the off season training.

 

Hockey life to me is this: it means late nights in the car, driving to training and games. It means lonely nights in the gym when you’re working out trying to maintain a decent level of fitness throughout the season. It means getting up early in the morning before work and going for a run. It means sacrifices and accommodating attitude from the family so that the ‘head of the household’ is off most weekends chasing his dream.

 

Hockey life means that hockey doesn’t stop at the last buzzer of the last game of the season. It is a process that takes 12 months. It is far removed from the glamour that sometimes gets associated with the game. But the fact of the matter is, despite every sacrifice that I make, I wouldn’t change it. The locker room is like a sanctuary, where all the days’ worries and troubles wash away. The minute you step over the threshold, you feel like you are with brothers. It is through thick and thin with your teammates. Sometimes tempers flare on the ice and among teammates, but once you are over that it is back to normal.

 

So yes, hockey life isn’t all about wheeling and girls. It’s about hard work and brotherhood with a bunch of guys who come together for a common cause. That is essentially what hockey life is about. 


It happened with the last shortened NHL season and it looks like it is happening again. There is going to be a player shortage in the market after all the NHL players have returned to their NHL teams. There are already reports circulating that AHL teams are scrambling to fill their rosters after their NHL players have left. The same can be expected once the last NHLers leave the KHL that the Russian behemoth league will start signing up top talents from other European leagues, further speeding up the snowball effect.

 

 

The challenge for European teams is that the IIHF transfer window closes on the 31st of January, so there is a lot of work to do to find a suitable replacement to bring in to plug holes left by locked out NHL players. As a UK based player agent from 9Hockey Management, Gareth Chalmers said on Twitter “I think a lot of European teams may struggle to replace departing NHLers, not in terms of quality but with an actual body.” Chlamers also added that he knows of teams that have been looking for import players for up to three months.

 

In Finland, there has been talk that the KHL would be extending offers to some of the top Finnish players and that teams are looking to accept these offers due to the vast financial gains to be made in terms of compensation. The first move was seen today, when Espoo Blues, gave a green light to Teemu Ramsted’s move to SKA St.Petersburgh. Ramsted was one of Blues’ key players after scoring 5+29 points in 39 games. The centre was also part of Finland’s Euro Hockey Tour roster where he played under the SKA head coach, Jukka Jalonen.

 

With the lockout really messing up the markets there are undoubtedly more hockey jobs available now, but there might not be high calibre players on the market that would be able to fill the roles that are being offered. For example an Italian Serie A2 team (second league in Italy) was looking for players with significant SM-liiga, NHL or KHL experience. The demand surely is high, but I can’t see anyone in a current higher league team make the change to Italian second tier hockey.

 

With AHL teams looking to bolster their teams, they will likely call up players from the ECHL, who in turn will be looking at the lower rings of professional hockey to fill in gaps made by the AHL. In the KHL, the net is cast into Europe, with Finland being a good candidate for player recruitment. The Finnish SM-Liiga teams ideally would like to have import players, but at the same time, they are looking for quality impact players, which can be hard to find. The other option for teams in Europe is to replace departed players with their top junior talents and try and hurry along their player development, a move which can be risky but can also yield high returns.

 

So not only is the NHL gearing up for a start, but that doesn’t mean that the European teams are any less busy. The European hockey market could see some puzzling moves (as seen by Rauman Lukko in signing Josef Straka) or some great last minute finds. As said, the transfer deadline for European teams is on the 31st of January when all ITC registrations closes, so busy days ahead for team GMs as well as player agents.

 

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KHL Capitalising on NHL Void

Posted: October 3, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last year, and during the Ice Hockey World Championships  I blogged extensively about the television rights and something from today’s locked out NHL news caught my eye. ESPN is in the process of including KHL into its programming on its ESPN3 channel. With NHL relying heavily on TV revenue (part of the revenue that goes into the collective pot that’s now under dispute), the news of ESPN sniffing at KHL could be disastrous news for the NHL.

 

During the last lockout, NHL lost ESPN as a media partner and has not been able to bring it back to the fold. In fact, Teemu Selanne wrote on his MTV3.fi blog, that ESPN actually picked Texas Hold ‘em poker over the NHL after the last lockout and has not really sniffed at hockey, apart from covering news and bits on its website.

 

Last summer, the NHL sold its European broadcasting rights to Medge Consulting and AMI partners, which meant that the ‘old continent’ was without hockey on TV when the regular season started. There were various rumours of different deals and what channels would land the NHL and where European viewers could watch the sport, apart through its Game Centre Live application.

 

As for the TV deal state side, the NHL signed a $2-billion contract with NBC-Universal, part of Comcast Corp’s television arm. The deal would land the NHL on the NBC channels through the next decade and hands the NHL $125-million more per season.

 

As the NHL is now locked out, the KHL has a huge opportunity to gain more mainstream coverage in North America and why not; the league is now home to some of the games’ brightest stars such as Alex Ovechkin, Pekka Rinne and Jevgeni Malkin to name but a few. Though the KHL has been a big draw for mainly the Russian born NHL players, it wouldn’t surprise me if some Canadian born players will start making their treks across to the Russian league.

 

Yes, the KHL’s TV deal is what one could call a temporary deal, which includes broadcasting five games for now, but there are rumors floating around in the twittersphere that the league is already in talks with a Canadian broadcaster to include the league within its schedules. Sure the hours of the games might not be sociable to North America, but conversely, the NHL isn’t exactly something you can watch live on a Sunday afternoon if you are based in Europe, but the fact is that if there’s good level hockey to be watched on TV, fans will watch it.

 

The NHL lockout is probably the best thing that has happened to the KHL. In-fact, the league is working hard to get an English language site and Facebook site set up as well as an English language of equivalent of its GCL. So far the league has published step by step guide on how to subscribe to the Russian version of the online streaming service to broaden its fan base across the globe. The KHL is even playing a match in New York this season and if the NHL can’t sort out its CBA issues, it will only strengthen the proposition of the KHL in the bigger market.

 

So with ESPN in the bag (at least for a couple of games) the KHL is quickly becoming a formidable threat to the NHL who already announced that it has lost $100-million in lost revenues due to the cancelled pre-season games, but for the KHL it is a time for growth and it has seized the opportunity that the NHL lockout presented. Had the lockout not have happened, I believe the KHL would have pursued North American broadcasting contracts, but it is in a great bargaining position at the moment due to the lockout and has not held back a single stride and is quickly moving to establish itself across the Atlantic. 


Unless you’ve been living under a rock. the NHL has been locked out. AGAIN! Since I’ve been following the sport from an early age from the 80s, this is now the third lockout of the league. There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for the lockout, whether it’s the owners/NHL or whether it is the players. In my humble opinion, it takes two to tango and there has to be blame placed on both parties. If the NHL and the NHLPA knew that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was coming to its end, why did they not start negotiating about it sooner? There was talk on the likes of TSN that the CBA issue would have been discussed at the annual GM’s meeting in Florida, but alas it was not something that was featured heavily on the agenda.

 

However, rather than ponder the causes and the colossal failure on getting the season started in the NHL, I wanted to focus on something that has fans anticipating and holding their breath over: “Which NHL players will play in Europe?”

 

While the KHL has been a big draw, specially to the Russian born NHL players, there are players heading out to Switzerland and other leagues, like the Swedish second tier, Allesvenskan, the Finnish SM-Liiga and so on.

 

But what is the biggest hold up or, barrier for NHL players on coming over to Europe? The answer can come down to six letters: TTD and ITC

 

TTD:

Apart from players’ salaries during the lockout, there is one thing that can often be a barrier to players playing in Europe or other leagues, and that is Temporary Total Disability Insurance. Each locked out NHL player needs to have a TTD-Insurance in case their career comes to an abrupt end during the lockout.  During the last lockout, the cost of the TTD insurance was in the tens of thousands of Euros.

 

According to TSN, the costs of the TTD insurance can range between $2,500 to $20,000 per month. Basically, the better the player, the higher the cost. Obviously the cost of the insurance depends on the contract wage and the offer that teams/players receive from the insurance companies. It was reported in Savon Sanomat (24/09/2012) that NHL’s top scoring talent, Steven Stamkos, had been offered to SM-Liiga team Porin Assat. Not once but twice, but the team had to turn it down with speculation of Stamkos’ insurance costing the team €40,000 per month. Usually, though, players have been known to contribute towards their own insurances. 

 

Imagine if a player like Sidney Crosby went to an European league. The cost of his insurance could be astronomical.

 

ITC:

Another thing that can hold up any transfer is that NHL players moving to an European league under the IIHF is the International Transfer Card (ITC). The ITC is needed for any player wishing to play in an European league, and as far as I know, all NHL players wishing to play in the IIHF events such as the Olympics or the World Championships need an ITC card. I know from personal experience that the ITC can be a pain as I had to obtain one to play higher than rec hockey.

 

The ITC cost, for an unlimited card, can be in the region of €1,000/$1,295. Sure it’s not as much as the insurance, but for a piece of paper that doesn’t take more than a few clicks to sort out, it is a lot of money for a team/player to shell out. With the influx of NHL players heading to Europe, the IIHF has struggled a little bit to get everything sorted out and there has been a backlog of transfers that the IIHF has had to shift through.

 

The other thing that players need to consider is the taxation. For example, if a player signs in the Finnish league and stays in the country for over six months out of the year, he will be taxed in accordance with the Finnish taxation system. I personally would not be at all surprised if we would see an influx of North American players signing in countries where the tax regulations aren’t as strict as they are in some other countries. For the Russian players, I can understand why the KHL is the number one choice. It is a chance to spend a prolonged period in their native, which I can’t fault. I can’t comment on the Russian taxation system and how it all works in the KHL in terms of tax and whether it still is as wild as back in the days when some players picked up their salaries in cash and carried it away in their hockey kit bag.

 

So there, that’s some insight to take into consideration into when players are looking to sign in Europe. Sure it would be great to have Brad Richards playing in the UK (seriously someone made this claim), but when you think about it with all the factors included, there might be only a handful of teams that can justifiably recruit NHL players on to their rosters.  In addition, considering the fact that some teams in Europe are not turning a profit, so as big as the temptation might be, financially it might not make sense

 


Hockey player A: “When does your season start?”

Hockey player B: “Mine starts on 15th of September.”

 

That is a conversation that you could hear between hockey players across the globe for the next couple of weeks.

 

Players usually answer it by giving the date of our first game, but the truth is, the season started much, much earlier.

 

Sure the first game is the first time the fans might see the team in proper competition and in a game that actually matters, but for a player the season doesn’t start there (or it shouldn’t start there).

 

“When does your season start?”

 

The more appropriate question would be “When did your season start?” Well mine started in late March after physio’s had confirmed I was fit enough to train after my car accident in January (sustained a small tear in my rotator cuff, suffered from whiplash and concussion). I remember having started my off-season workouts the week before our official season ending party.

 

Since then it has been constant work, trying to figure out ways to make myself a faster, stronger and better player and executing those plans to the best of my ability. This might sound corny, but the start to the hockey season has been fun. For the first time in four years I have been able to train hard and stay healthy throughout. I have not had to heal too many injuries carried on from the end of the season (apart from the car accident) and I did not pick up any new ones during the training. Also a good sign was that neurologists gave me a clean bill of health.

 

It may sound cliché, but in many ways, getting to game play and playing is the easy part of the sport. It is everything else that is demanding. I’m not saying that the games are a breeze, because they’re not, but in many ways the work that has been done makes them easier. Playing and being on the ice is the fun part of hockey, but to be able to play at a competitive level and ensure you can outskate the opponent, you need to put in the work that is not as fun. As a coach once told me “hockey is similar to an (office) career. You want to get ahead in your career and you work hard to achieve those objectives. Hockey is no different.”

 

The off season has asked a lot, but it has given a lot back. I feel fitter, healthier and mentally stronger. There’s just something in running on a cold April morning in the rain that gives you a certain amount of grit. Or the fact that despite being on the verge of throwing up and deciding that another 100m sprint with a speed chute is “not a big deal”.

 

Now on the ice, it’s been a bit different. It’s been getting used to proper drills again from summer league shinny. It’s been about finding your feet and sorting out how all the work you did translates to the ice and to your skating. One thing I have noticed is that no matter how much you do off the ice in terms of strength and other conditioning exercises, there’s nothing quite like skating. The motion is different, and the muscles are used in a different way.

But at least there’s time till the first game to work all that out and get game-ready.

For a fan it’s a bit different. There’s the anticipation of news of player signings, what the team is going to look like, discussions around the water cooler about who will win the championship this year, who are the teams and players to look out for and sorting out the social life around the hockey schedule (Though the last applies to players as well).

 

When did your season start?


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The legendary goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, suggested to allhockey.ru that the NHL moves to larger rinks, such as the ones played on in Europe. According to Tretiak, this would reduce the number of concussions in the sport as the playing surface is bigger and there would be not as much chance of high speed/forceful contacts.

 

Tretiak says that concussions are not a daily concern or an epidemic in the KHL or in Russian hockey as they are in the NHL. I would agree that in any European league the issue of concussion isn’t as big as it is in the KHL. However, it is not to say that they do not happen in the European sized rinks. We’ve seen a few nasty hits that have lead to a concussion in the Swedish leagues.

 

I have a few issues with Tretiak’s statement and a few things I would like to see before I could back the decision. The KHL hasn’t made a big play of the injuries that players suffer. In-fact the only time I find out about an injured player is if it is a Finnish player and it has been reported in the Finnish media. The KHL is pretty well covered in Finland in that it has games shown with Finnish commentary on the TV, but beyond the Scandinavia, does anyone actually care about the KHL or follow the league with same intensity as they would do their native leagues or the NHL? There are people who do, don’t get me wrong, but I think reporting of injuries and finding out about the types of injuries is pretty difficult due to the language barrier in place and the navigation of some of the team websites is, well, tricky at the best of times.

 

Then there is the issue of the game itself. The NHL has always prided itself on being the toughest league in the world and it is THE league any hockey playing kid wants to play in. Even if you are just playing street hockey with your friends, the chances are you are playing the dying seconds of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. I haven’t yet met a hockey player who says that the dream for their career would be to hoist the KHL winners’ trophy. And I don’t mean that in the sense that players in the KHL wouldn’t want to win, but that the Stanley Cup is the ultimate prize of hockey.

 

The few games of KHL hockey I’ve seen and in fact European hockey, the lack of hitting is noticeable. Not saying there isn’t any hits, but the number of hits is not as high as in the NHL. Sure there is more space to create plays and play skilful hockey, but I think European hockey, for the most parts lacks in the physicality. I tweeted about an experience in a Finnish league game saying that there was hardly any hitting.

 

Whether I have gotten so used to the physicality of the NHL games and I genuinely enjoy watching that, or that the European brand of hockey is more based on skills and creativity rather than the brute physical strength. A case and point of this would be the U-20 world championships. When Finland played against Canada the Finns were unable to meet the Canadians in physicality and rather sprayed snow on the opponent rather than hit them. I don’t mean that as ‘euro players are soft’ but kids playing in European leagues need to learn to finish their hits if they want to play in North America where the physicality is one of the key aspects of the game.

 

I doubt any fans of the NHL would like to see the league move towards larger rinks. Not only would it change the game and alienate fans, but it would also come at a huge cost to teams and rinks as they would need some serious renovation to accommodate the bigger space, which would ultimately lead to lesser seats in arenas. Where I think Tretiak’s idea in general is good and has the right idea, I don’t see it happening. If anything, I’d personally like to see the European leagues move to a smaller ice size to make the games just slightly more physical.


Well the wait is finally over. The puck has dropped and the season is under way. I think I’ve been looking forward to this ever since the doctors cleared me to play after the concussion. The thought of not being able to play really re-ignited my love for the game again and definitely made me work hard during the summer.

As most of the hockey world knows, this off season has been really dark for the hockey community. With the deaths of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogard over the summer and of course the devastating loss of the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv team. It wasn’t an easy wake up this morning, after receiving a news alert to say that the surviving player Alex Galimov had passed away due to the injuries he sustained in the crash. I had held out hope that Galimov would pull through, despite the grave injuries he received. Never the less he put up one hell of a fight.

No matter what level you play this game at, losses like the ones mentioned above are terrible. Even if we don’t know the players on a personal level, we’ve all watched them play and admired their skills they’ve displayed on the ice and the moments of jubilation they have provided to the fans of the game. I don’t even want to begin to imagine what the players’ families and friends are going through, but looking at the pictures and videos from the memorial services around the globe, the loss is visibly heart breaking.I’ve read stories that have reduced me to tears and seen fans remember the players in a way that has brought a smile to my face, not because the stories were funny, but because they were so touching and you could tell how much the game and the guys meant to people all around the world.

As we started our season, we respected those who lost their lives and remembered their families in the Yaroslav plane crash and the 9/11 disaster by a minutes silence. Personally I was touched by the rink falling totally silent for a minute as we paid our respects to the lives lost. To me, it doesn’t matter what level of the game we play the game, we are all part of the same hockey community and regardless of skills or ability, the reasons why we play the game are much the same.

In closing, my thoughts go out to the victims’ families and friends at this difficult time.

Our first game was something that we wanted to skate away with a W under our belts and that we did. We played an amazing first period in the game took command early on. We were hungry to win this game since it was our first game of the year and given that our last season’s games ended in us losing both of them.

 

There are lots of positives we can all take away from the game, though we did take our foot off the gas in the third. Hockey is a 60 minute game (or 65 if you’re lucky enough to play overtimes) so the work ethic must be there throughout the game. But after all it was the first game of the year. Yet we can’t use that as an excuse as teams we will be facing from now on will have games under their belts and will probably get the wind of our success. I’m not taking anything away from the team, but we have to work hard moving forwards. The win was awesome no bones about it!

 

Personally I enjoyed playing, up until midway through the second when my skates started chewing my feet to bits. As I write I’ve got blisters on both my feet and they feel puffy. The skates have been on their way out. Looking at prices for new skates, they cost more than our fridge freezer! Seriously!!! For the money some of these skates retail at I’m hoping they cook me my breakfast and serve it in my bed.

 

There’s some exciting stuff coming up on this blog so keep your eyes peeled. I’m looking to do some video blogging, which will probably scare off the readers as they’ll have to look at my ugly mug.


KHL, the alternative frontier. For the past couple of years, KHL, the Russian hockey league has been rivalling the NHL and trying to position itself as the best league in the world. Currently it ranks possibly as number one outside of north America and has attracted a number of high profile players to its ranks.

Players like Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Fedorov, Alexei Zhitnik, Alexei Yashin and many others have ventured to the KHL, or as it is in the case of the Russian players, back to home.

As a Finn the league has been somewhat interesting to follow, namely because most of our ‘talented’ players now play in the league. Many of the Finnish players are either players who are on the cusp of breaking it to the NHL or did not quite make it in the big league.

My problem with the KHL has always been the sustainability of the league. Where sites like TSN have done a major article and analysis of the situation of Moscow Dynamo, I find that the teams’ dire situation is a reflection of concerns that many voiced when the league was formed. For those who are yet to read the TSN piece you can find it here: http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=318976

The KHL is a league where people are paid well. Extremely well I might add. There are guys like Leo Komarov, who broke through in last years’ World Championships, and went to say that his wage per year was more than he would make playing 3 years in the Finnish league. Good choice if you know your career will never hit the NHL stride. Ex NHLers, like Fedorov, whose career was in a downward spiral still commands a salary that will rival the height of his NHL career.

The trouble is that the arenas aren’t capable of drawing 10,000+ strong audiences. In many cases the teams do not even own the arenas, as with Moscow Dynamo. Ticket prices, according to TSN are between $5-$20 dollars, hardly enough to cover the salaries of your players or bring any additional income. Like with most European teams, the main bulk of the teams’ money comes from sponsorship and advertising (not forgetting TV revenues). At least when I saw my first Finnish SM-League match in over 10 years the whole of the ice surface was covered in adverts and corporate logos, hell even the goal nets were sponsored by the Dominos equivalent of Finland.

But the difference was that, the ticket prices were much higher, and the teams’ wage structure was balanced. Unless you are a team like Jokerit Helsinki and can splash millions per season on players like Michael Nylander (though his wages were paid by the Washington Capitals) or Bates Battaglia, you wont meet too many hockey millionaires in some of the European leagues.

The other case of a team folding in the KHL was Lada Togliati. There were reports that the teams’ ‘import’ players were evicted from their team owned apartment after the team failed to make rent payments. The two players in question ended up sleeping in the teams’ changing room.

There are also wild stories from the Russian league, all the way from superstitious rituals to players getting kit bag loads of cash straight from the teams’ manager’s office. How true these are remain to be seen as it is player hear say.

But the overall feeling is that where the KHL has a chance to be the greatest league in Europe, it cannot survive with high paid players, where the teams can’t sustain their own existence. Moscow Dynamo was perhaps one of the most illustrious teams in Europe and now the team is gone. Imagine if a household name in the NHL, like the Canadiens or Maple Leafs, went bust or merged with one another.

Unless KHL can find serious sponsors (which it already has in the form of many wealth Russian oil and gas companies) that can make a long term commitment to the league in a fragile global economy, the dream and vision Dimitri Medvedev had of a European superleague will never be realised. With two teams folding, we might have witnessed the beginning of the end for the KHL. I’ll give the league 5-6 years before it mothballs, simply because I doubt that long-term plan for full sustainability of the league will ever be found. Till then, we can enjoy the quality of hockey that it has provided us thus far.

As a two part conclusion, I would also like to offer my analysis of the reason why Russia failed in the Olympics. Russia had plenty of talent in the NHL to put together a winning squad, but it opted for balance between NHL and KHL experience, in my view to show the world that the KHL is as good as the NHL, if not better. However, the truth is that the KHL still trails in talent, despite stars like Jagr in the league, it is still not a match for the NHL.