Vladislav Tretiak, the great Russian goalie who gave fits to Team Canada in 1972 and the Montreal Canadiens on New Year’s Eve, 1975, is a proud Russian, and as President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, desparately wants his country to be a real hockey country.
In fact, he’s predicting the new Russian league, the Continental Hockey League (KHL), will soon be as good as the NHL in all aspects. The money’s there, Jaromir Jagr’s there, and the crowds are sort of there.
What’s not there, it seems, are ambulances and parametics. And without crucial intangibles like that, the KHL doesn’t stand a chance in hell of ever been the equal of the National Hockey League.
The incredible tragedy of 19 year old Russian star Alexei Cherepanov only points out that the Russians may never really get it. The night his heart stopped while sitting on the bench of his team Avangard Omsk, the parametics had already left the building and had to be called back, which of course meant they took too long.
How come they left? Was it break time?
There was no defibrillator in the arena. Nobody had thought that maybe there should be. And papers are saying that the emergency doctors who finally got around to taking Cherepanov to the hospital were later assaulted and beaten up by thugs. What’s that all about?
It’s all very sinister. And a young fellow with major talent, with his whole life ahead of him, who was going to be the next Pavel Bure or Alex Ovechkin, died. It’s not only incredibly sad, but unforgivable the way the situation was handled.
I’ve been to several games in Russia involving Moscow Red Army, St. Petersburg SKA, and other Super League teams, and it’s definitely not the NHL over there. I don’t know what the KHL looks like, but it can’t be a whole lot different than what I saw. And what I saw didn’t even come close to the NHL. Not by a country mile. It didn’t even come close to a major Junior A game.
Atmosphere, the hockey, the cheerleaders, whatever. Not even close.
If Tretiak thinks the league there will compete with the NHL, he and the rest have a lot of work to do.
In the meantime, maybe they should think a little harder about having medical staff on hand when thousands of people are in the stands, and players are playing a physical game.
It makes sense to most of us. Why didn’t it to the Russians?