KHL Will Welcome NHLers If Lockout Occurs; Players Weighing Options
The KHL will "open its arms to NHL players" in the event of a lockout "because it believes it can capitalize while arenas go dark around North America," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. KHL VP Ilya Kochevrin said, "Mainly I think it's going to be a lot of additional marketing potential for the league and hockey itself as a game. The stars bring additional attention ... to a lot of people who probably don't consider hockey the sport of choice. I think as a marketing tool it's a great opportunity." Johnston notes NHLers Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk "have already been linked to KHL teams." The KHL also has "looked into its options for showing games on TV in North America this season." Kochevrin said, "There is definitely great interest from broadcasters and I'm pretty sure once the (NHL's) deal is announced one way or the other, you're going to see (that)." Meanwhile, Johnston notes Swedish players "won't be permitted to play in their homeland after the country's hockey federation announced last month that all contracts must last for the entire year" (CP, 9/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Dmitry Chesnokov wrote with countries like Sweden "no longer an option in Europe for NHL players, the KHL is trying to make itself more attractive to world stars." Russian magazine Sovietsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov on his Twitter feed cited KHL President Alexander Medvedev as saying, "First of all, any KHL team will be allowed to sign up to three players from the NHL for the duration of the possible lockout in the NHL. Of the three, one may be from any country other than Russia. Furthermore, none of these 'lockout-long' contracts would count towards the KHL salary cap, which is a 'soft' cap to begin with" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/4).
WEIGHING OPTIONS: The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle cited a survey as indicating several NHL player agents "expect most of their European clients will play in their home countries should the lockout extend into October." Some North America-born NHLers "could then follow suit if it lasts much beyond that, especially with the KHL eager to take advantage of the situation." For many players, "collecting a paycheque -- even a much smaller one -- while still playing is obviously appealing" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/5). In Chicago, Chris Kuc noted when the '04-05 NHL season was canceled, "many players joined teams in Europe." Blackhawks LW Patrick Sharp said, "If that needs to be an option, certainly. I grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL and I love playing for the Hawks, so that's obviously the first choice, (but) if it comes to that then that's always an option" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/4). In Detroit, Helene St. James notes Red Wings C Henrik Zetterberg during the '04-05 lockout "returned to play for his old Swedish club, Timra, but that might not be an option this time." Zetterberg said, "If you want to come and play, you have to sign for the whole year. We'll see if they change that rule" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/5).