SBD/September 4, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

KHL Continuing Push To Become Competitive Alternative For NHL Players

Kovalchuk joined SKA Saint Petersburg after playing for it during the recent lockout
The KHL opens its sixth season today, and the league has "regained its confidence and momentum, moving markedly closer to its goal of creating a competitive, international alternative" to the NHL, according to Steven Lee Myers of the N.Y. TIMES. The KHL "may not yet be a true rival," but the league and its teams "enjoy the lavish patronage of Russia’s industrial giants and the political support" of Russian President Vladimir Putin. With teams also in Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the league has "grown beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union, challenging, at least in part, its reputation as simply a glorified rebranding of the defunct all-Russian Superliga." The KHL’s "most spectacular coup of the summer was luring" Ilya Kovalchuk from the Devils to join SKA Saint Petersburg after playing for them during last season’s NHL lockout. Kovalchuk’s signing "hardly signaled an exodus of NHL players to the KHL, but it demonstrated the league’s increasing attractiveness ... and the deep pockets of at least some of the teams’ owners." KHL President Aleksander Medvedev said, "Our aim is not to make a barrier -- or iron curtain -- between the KHL and the NHL. We would like that players, depending on their circumstances and vision of the world, can play everywhere. It will make hockey better if more North Americans will come to play here, and vice versa" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/4).

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: In DC, Katie Carrera noted while "no other top-tier Russian players appear ready to walk away from their NHL careers, that doesn’t stop the speculation and the KHL’s attempt to lure players home." Dynamo Moscow General Dir Andrey Safranov last week said that he would "explore the possibility of trying to bring" Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin back to Russia. Safranov said, "Right now all Russian national team players want to come back to their homeland. KHL shows its force and credibility. And finances are important too. Taking taxes in account, playing in Russia has become way more attractive for players." Ovechkin has eight years and $79M remaining on his current contract with the Capitals and there is "no reason to believe he wants to end his NHL career in order to return to Russia and the KHL" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/2).
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