Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Lucas Aykroyd of FlightNetwork,
Moscow and St. Petersburg are Russia’s most glamorous cities, and international hockey fans will flock there for the 2016 IIHF World Championship (May 6-22). However, Ufa, the host city for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, isn’t as well-known. With the 2014 Sochi Olympics still a fresh memory and the 2016 Worlds just weeks away, it’s a great time to take a closer look at Ufa.
I visited as a journalist to cover the 2013 tournament, and discovered many quirky dimensions to this Russian city of more than one million inhabitants, both inside and outside the rinks.
The 439-year-old capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan lies almost 1,200 kilometres east of Moscow, in the Ural Mountains. You’d never guess ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev grew up here. It’s an oil town, and petrodollars power Salavat Yulaev Ufa, the local Kontinental Hockey League franchise.
Some notable ex-NHL players who have suited up for Ufa include Alexander Radulov, Oleg Tverdovsky, Viktor Kozlov, Sami Lepisto, Oleg Saprykin, and Brent Sopel.
continued, a quirky and enjoyable read...
from Gabriel Luis Manga of The Guardian,
In next year’s NHL draft, the No1 pick won’t be the prototypical teen from Ontario, the Swedish speedster, or pummeling Muscovite. It will be an 18-year-old from Arizona who plays in Switzerland named Auston Matthews. The young phenom has ended up playing in Europe thanks to a combination of outsider hockey status – Phoenix is not exactly a hockeyhot-bed – and the logistics of being born just after the cutoff for last year’s draft.
Europe has long been a haven for North American hockey players. But most players who end up there are looking to continue the dream of making a living playing the sport they love, even if the NHL isn’t calling for them. That’s how Dan Olsen and Bruce Hardy, two Canadians, ended up in Iserlohn, just south of Dortmund in Germany. It was there that, in 1987, their hockey careers would lead them into what amounted to a dystopian version of Slap Shot. Their bankrupt team, ECD Iserlohn, turned to the most unlikely of saviors: Muammar Gaddafi.
European hockey is a strange place: jerseys are a neoliberal dream of sponsorship patches, and top scorers on each team are marked with gold helmets; there’s a lot of gimmick and schtick that goes into making the sport financially viable as it competes with soccer for attention. Heinz Weifenbach, the owner of ECD Iserlohn, was perfect for this world. A gregarious, mustachioed, cigar-smoking bon vivant who made his fortune in real estate development, Weifenbach had poured his wealth into making Iserlohn one of Germany’s top teams.
from Ryan Whitney at the Players' Tribune,
So let me preface the rest of this story by saying that I’m a kid from Boston about to get on a plane and be thrown into a very strange experience on the other side of the world. You may experience some strong language. Viewer discretion is advised.
The plane touched down at 4 a.m. I had to fly from Boston to Turkey to Sochi. My head is spinning. Eyes are red. I’m delirious. This guy picks me up at baggage claim with the big sign, just like the movies. He barely speaks English.
Look, I’m not naive. I’ve traveled abroad before. But my first thought at the airport was, Holy shit. Why is the letter H upside down? Everything’s in Russian. Like, everything.
The guy drives me to my apartment. There’s no more exciting and nerve-wracking feeling than landing in a new city and being driven to your new home. So after a while, I start seeing all the Olympic rings everywhere. We drive into this big complex, and there are hundreds of these brand-new apartments. Perfectly paved streets. Rows of street lamps.
And there’s not a single living soul that I can see. No cars. No nothing.
from Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun,
Save for a couple of innovative ideas like the Winter Classic – which unfortunately is being milked to death – the NHL is probably the least cutting-edge professional league in the world: Same ice size for 100 years. The same boring TV angles that slow the game down. Dumb all-star game formats. Tight, boring checking systems.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the game and grew up following the NHL as close as any other kid in the neighbourhood, but I don’t buy the myth that the NHL is going through some kind of Renaissance and people around the world are starting to embrace the game like they’ve embraced basketball in places like China and the Philippines.
The big talk in the NHL these days is expansion. The NHL seems bound and determined to expand by at least two more teams, further diluting and already diluted product - all for the sake of greedy owners getting a one-time expansion fee. Never mind that adding two new teams will likely hurt the game long-term when fans realize that the guys on their favourite team playing on the third and fourth lines should be in the AHL. And to expand to a place like Las Vegas is just stupid and short-sighted.
Instead of expanding, why not invite some of the already established and healthy franchises in the Swedish, Swiss, Czech or German leagues to join the NHL?
from Evgeny Kuznetov at the Players' Tribune,
How much I do I love hockey? I can’t even describe. In Russia, we don’t really have a Christmas break, but from December 31 to January 3, everything closed. Even hockey school. These were the worst days of my life. Four days with no hockey, I get so depressed. I can’t even sleep. Just sit watching YouTube of Kovalev and wait.
Some people in Canada understand this, I think. In my hometown of Chelyabinsk, hockey is religion. Only one sport. Hockey.
For me, it start when I’m little boy. I tell you one of my very first memories. My dad take me to the rink, and I see this older guy score goal, and he do a really cool celebration. Slide around on his knees, you know? I say to myself, I want to do that. This looks so fun.
BarDown has much more on the look.
thanks to a KK member for the pointer
from Craig Custance of ESPN,
Things have gone well for Boucher in Switzerland, and now Boucher has emerged as the best available candidate for NHL teams looking to make an in-season change at head coach. There are certainly other notable and worthy candidates, like John Tortorella, Ron Wilson and Randy Carlyle, but nobody who offers the mix of youth, intelligence and now international experience that the 44-year-old Boucher provides.
Reached by phone in Switzerland on Monday, Boucher said coaching for Bern has been an incredible opportunity and learning experience for him.
“You see things differently. I look at what Paul Maurice had done going to Europe and coming back. Bob Hartley just won coach of the year and he did the same thing. You ask all those guys and they’ll tell you their experience overseas helped you become better coaches,” Boucher said.
read on (insiders only but well worth the cost)...
Check out Szemberg's recent Twitter timeline for more on Keenan.
added 8:51am, via Darren Dreger tweets,
Bizarre turn of events in KHL. After losing 2nd straight game, Mike Keenan was fired when he arrived at the arena this morning.
Keenan is unclear as to what his future with the team or league is at this point, but says he's been told his citizenship will be granted.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at email@example.com