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.

8 thoughts on “Part Two Of A Glimpse Into The KHL”

  1. Dennis, the seating in the arena is odd. The fans are away from the glass behind what appears to be a gate or barricade of some sort. Also there is advertising on the glass itself.
    The league can’t be making too much money with the high salaries, low admission prices and poor attendance. I wonder how much longer the KHL can keep going.

  2. Danno, it’s slightly unusual that way, and here’s what I think. I believe, because the Russian Hockey Federation wants desparately to have a league to compete with the NHL, has decided to not worry about making higher ticket prices, which most there can’t afford anyway, and entice players using money from mostly private enterprise. Ticket income is certainly just a small percentage as you can see from attendance, and the paying of many players those million dollar salaries. The league is kept alive from men with extremely deep pockets. But I don’t know if this can go on on forever. It’s also a league in which Canadian players who played there really don’t want to go back. There’s been shady scenes, weird treatment to foreigners, and all in all, it doesn’t compare at all with the NHL, although Fetisov and these people think it can be. The NHL is far and away the best league in the world, and the Russian Hockey Federation can never change this.

  3. Thank you Dennis and Denis for this inside look at the KHL. I hope professional hockey continues to thrive in Russia in spite of the current difficulties. The hockey world just wouldn’t be the same without the rich history and tradition of Russian hockey and the great players that have emerged from their system.

  4. Dennis,

    Given that the Russian economic and political landscape is to a great extent still in transition, following on from the world bank inspired smash and grab that followed the demise of the old Soviet regime, I think it’s fair to assume that professional sport will have a number of false starts and false dawns as it develops just as happened in Western Europe and North America at the start of the last century. It’ll take time for it all to settle down.

    If the market place becomes more sophisticated in terms of revenue streams through TV and the standard of living generally rises to support ticket prices then there’s no reason why a strong league wouldn’t emerge. But I think I’ll keep my money under the mattress rather than invest.

    And this great look at the KHL reminded me that I meant to send you this. I heard a piece on the radio back before Christmas, and having been to Kuala Lumpur some years back, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of hockey being played in a shopping centre rink. I believe there are plans to build more ice rinks in future mall developments.

    This quote stands out:

    “It is tough to keep a steady fan base. There is no seating around the rink; spectators usually leave after 20 minutes or so.”

    It made me think of poor ol’ Mr Bettman and his efforts to hockify the land South of the Mason Dixon. They have the same trouble and that’s with seats provided!

    Having fessed up about Junior Bayou’s liking for the Flyers, this evening’s game brings more strife to the Bayou household.

    Junior Bayette is in her first proper year at school. They have named all the classes after Olympic cities, she is in Calgary. They’ve been learning about Canada and its love of hockey.

    She knows I follow the Canadiens. Even at 5 (going on 15) she is sassy enough to go her own way and after a fashion (so as to annoy her Dad) likes to be kept informed about the progress of the Flames. It could be a difficult breakfast if our boys don’t get the job done.

  5. Danno, there’s one thing that might be a concern for years to come regarding Russian hockey – the Russian mafia. They have this slightly annoying habit of latching onto those with big money and some of this money ends up in their pockets. It’s like magic. It’s a concern for Canadian players playing there. And many of the cops are in bed with the bad guys so one doesn’t get much help that way either. Russia wanted a big league like the NHL and got it. Now they have to tweak it.

  6. Blue Bayou, what about the British league? Is it still thriving, is the fan base growing? I know it’s pretty darn good hockey, and has been around for years. I’m just hoping it’s still doing well.

  7. Hi Dennis, do you have an idea of the viewer base of the KHL on TV? Could the TV rights be worth big $$$? I have a hard time believing that billionaire Russian KHL owners are willing to lose their money any more than billionaire NHL owners. Maybe the Russian Hockey Federation subsidizes the owners using taxpayer money in the name of Russian pride.

  8. Christopher, before I actually find out, I’m guessing the TV audience is very low. I don’t think it’s a priority in the overall picture for the entire country. Russia is still far and away a soccer country. Hockey to them is like hockey in the norther US, where it can be great, but in many parts of the rest of it they could care less. That’s my impression anyway, and my wife told me not long ago that soccer is the biggest sport by a longshot.
    I don’t know, maybe the Kremlin is involved somehow with contributing money. 10 or 14000 fans a game, or less, at three to seventeen bucks a ticket, just doesn’t make sense when many of these guys are getting a couple of million buck salaries.

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