Category Archives: A glimpse into the KHL

KHL Plane Goes Down

A plane carrying the KHL team Lokomotive Yaroslavl has crashed in Russia killing 36 (or is it 43) people on board and this is not the way I would like to begin a story. It’s already been a horrendous summer with the passing of three fine hockey players.

But it’s happened and it’s shocking, and the link to the CBC story can be seen here Russian Jet Carrying Hockey Team Crashes. Former NHL player and coach Brad McCrimmon was the coach of this squad, and ex-NHLer Pavol Demitra was on the team.

Over the years I’ve oftened thought about this sort of thing happening in the NHL and how tragic it would be if it did. Imagine us losing our Montreal Canadiens in one fell swoop? No, I can’t imagine.

There are those on pro teams deathly afraid to fly and some have retired prematurely because of the situation. Gump Worsley drove his car to other cities as much as possible to avoid the big silver bird. This new development isn’t going to help ease the fear of flying at all for the many afflicted now with what Gump had. And I’ll bet there’s at least a few on every team.

What a horrible piece of news to read. But I have to say this. Russian planes have had a lousy accident history over the years and planes crash far too often there. Russia is a country that went head-to-head with the U.S. with their once innovative and proud space program. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was and remains the most revered hero in the nation. But their airline industry is second rate. Up until recently at least, Russian airlines (not mentioning any names) would sometimes pack their planes so full that some passengers had to stand in the aisle.

This might kill any desire of North Americans players to play in Russia from here on in. And I’m sure the Brent Sopel family, with him now playing in Siberia, have a sick feeling in their guts at this moment.

We in the hockey world mourn the loss of the people on this ill-fated plane, and we pray it never happens again. R.I.P.


Some Lowdown On Kovy And Sopes’ New Digs

With the news that both Brent Sopel and Alex Kovalev have signed with Russian teams in the Kontinental Hockey League, I thought it important that we find out a little about their new places.

Kovalev is moving to Mytishchi in the outskirts of Moscow, and will be playing for Atlant Moscow Oblast, which up until recently was the much better known Khimik, a team that was around since 1953. Other players who have played there include Igor Larionov, Valeri Kamensky, Valeri Zelepukin, Vyacheslov Kozlov, and that legendary Soviet superstar…Kyle Wellwood.

Mytishchi is famous throughout the land for constructing the first water supply in Russia to provide the Kremlin with pure water. Below is a monument heralding the big event. Kovalev should be very proud to be in such a historic water supply area.

Brent Sopel will living much farther north and east, playing for Metallurg, founded in 1949, in Siberia’s Novokuznetsk. Sopes should be right at home here, moving from Chicago where the cold winds from Lake Michigan rattled his aching bones, to the area best known for the West-Siberian metal plants, where cold winds blow around with a nice metallic scent. (Actually, aside from the plants, the area is apparently quite a tourist destination, with clubs and music and lots of good shit).

Famous ex-player of Metallurg is Flyers’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

Below, the scenic landscape of Novokuznetsk.

Third And Final Glimpse Into The KHL. “The Shootout”

Below is my son-in-law and great friend Denis Brel, who took the photos. Unfortunately, Denis has been a Pittsburgh fan for a long time and I suppose it’s his only flaw.

The following photos, aside from the cheerleaders shot of course, are of St. Petersburg SKA players taking the shootout. Unfortunately for hometown fans, SKA, maybe a little overconfident, lost on this night to basement-dwelling Vityaz Chekhov.

Denis said he had so much fun he’s buying season tickets next year. 


Part Two Of A Glimpse Into The KHL

St. Petersburg SKA, sitting high in the standings, boasts several players who had careers in the NHL. Alexei Yashin, Maxim Afinogenov, Sergei Zubov, Evgeny Artyukhin, Sergei Brylin, and Evgeny Nabokov, all seasoned ex-NHLers, play here, although no Canadians are on the squad.

I think for most North Americans, living and playing in Russia can be a trying experience, but Vityaz Chekhov has five Canadians on their roster – Darcy Verot, Josh Gratton, Kevin Lalande, Chris Simon, and Brandon Sugden. (An interesting story about Brandon Sugden can be found here –  Brandon Sugden)

Vityaz Chekhov are also considered the Broad St. Bullies of the KHL, a tough, scrapping bunch, although on the night Denis went, they behaved themselves and won.

The Kontinental Hockey League clubs play for the Gagarin Cup, named after a true Russian hero Yuri Gagarin, a cosmonaut who became the first human in outer space and who is, according to my wife, possibly Russia’s most beloved hero of all time. Lord Stanley was Canada’s Governor General and donated the Stanley Cup, but Yuri Gagarin was a pioneer cosmonaut during the Cold War. For Russians, there’s no comparison.

A Glimpse Into The KHL

My old friend Denis Brel, in St. Petersburg, Russia, was at a Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) game recently between the hometown, first-place SKA (in blue) and visiting basement-dwellars Vityaz Chekhov, a game in which Chekhov upset the big shots 5-4 in a shootout. 

Denis has sent along some nice photos.

The player dropping the puck (name unknown) in the middle picture is from the gold medal-winning Russian junior squad, now back with his SKA team.

In the third photo, one of St. Petersburg’s biggest stars, Alexei Yashin, whom we all know from his time in Ottawa and Long Island, is one of the featured players on the scoreboard. It also seems, from the fourth picture, that Russian fans don’t like sitting behind the net.

Ticket prices at SKA games range from 100 rubles to 500, about three to fifteen dollars. Denis reports that 100 rubles is the price of three beer, four metro tickets, one toothbrush, or the cost of one month of slow internet.

Denis also says the SKA cheerleaders are mini-celebrities around the city and many fans know their names.

This is part one, with parts two and three coming shortly.

Coming Tomorrow To A Computer Near You

My son-in law in Russia, who is also an old friend, was just at a KHL game in St. Petersburg and took a veritable cornucopia of nice photos while he was there.

Beginning sometime tomorrow, I’ll be showing glimpses of the game through his photos in a three-part series.

It’ll give you some kind of insight on what it looks like at a Russian game, and I’m really hoping you’ll enjoy it and find it quite facinating.

Below….his ticket to the game, which he paid 500 rubles to attend (about 17 dollars).

500 rubles will buy a bottle of tequila, two movie dvd’s, one small can of red caviar, or pay your water and hydro bill in Russia for a month. You can also buy 100 ruble tickets and I’ll tell you in part one what you can buy for this amount.

Please have a look tomorrow for part one.