SBD/Issue 41/Leagues & Governing Bodies

KHL's Inaugural Season Hampered By Worldwide Economic Crisis

Russia's Continental Hockey League (KHL) is "undergoing growing pains in its inaugural season," according to Eric Duhatschek of the GLOBE & MAIL. KHL teams have "missed payroll and there's uncertainty about its smaller franchises," while "worries are also mounting about the possible impact of the world economic crisis on its well-moneyed backers, many of them who rely on high world oil prices for their wealth." KHL club SKA St. Petersburg Player Personnel Dir Igor Larionov, who last night was inducted into the Hockey HOF, said that the "economics of the KHL make little sense today, given that some teams in Moscow draw as few as 1,000 or 2,000 fans a game and ticket prices are modest." At that rate, Larionov does not believe that the player salaries "on offer last season ... are sustainable over the long term." Larionov: "You want to be wise economically. You want to get ticket sales and apply to the salaries. Now, we have great support for big companies and business people, but how long is it going to last? That is why we have to sit down and talk." Larionov, who was joined at last night's induction ceremony by KHL President Alexander Medvedev and KHL BOD Chair Slava Fetisov, said that the KHL this spring will meet to "devise a plan for the future," which could include expanding the league "beyond the Russian border." Larionov indicated that possibilities include an "Asian division (with China, Japan and teams on the Russian East Coast) and another division that would incorporate some of the major cities in Europe" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/11).

ON THIN ICE? In Edmonton, Jim Matheson reports KHL club Severstal Cherepovets "may not have paid their players since August," while clubs Moscow Spartak and MVD Balashika are "behind in payments." Also, KHL club Avangard Omsk, for whom former NHLer RW Jaromir Jagr plays, "may also have been delinquent." Larionov said, "I'm getting some stories about this, and I have addressed that with Alex Medvedev. It's a big concern, the sponsorship of some of these teams. We have to make this work." Larionov added of the KHL, "I don't think it's a threat to the NHL right now. Some NHLers went to play in Russia, but not many big names, except Jagr" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 11/11).

Alex Medvedev Says NHL, Russia's KHL
Have "Different Business Models"
FACE OFF: Medvedev yesterday appeared on CNBC and when asked about comparing his league to the NHL, he said, "We have different business models. We're not so much dependent on the revenues from ticket sales, at least nowadays." Medvedev also noted Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Medvedev he considered hockey a "tool to promote cooperation between nations and that's why despite all the economic difficulties which could appear, we'll be in a position to continue our project" ("Street Signs," CNBC, 11/10). Larionov yesterday "called for the NHL and KHL to work together to grow the game internationally." Larionov: "We don't need a cold war right now in hockey. The KHL is starting to make its first steps toward recognition. We should be working together (with the NHL) to make the game globally recognized and to find new markets" (TORONTO STAR, 11/11). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "The fundamental issue for us is the [KHL] fundamentally does not respect contracts. We do not register a player until we know he is free of other contracts. The Continental League won't do that" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/11). SPORTINGNEWS.com's Craig Custance wrote Medvedev at last night's ceremony preceded Bettman "down the red carpet by about 15 minutes, the two leaders of opposing leagues in the same building, putting aside differences, to honor Larionov" and the other HOF inductees (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/10).

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