Kukla's Korner Hockey
via RIA Novosti,
Russian former Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nikolai Zherdev has joined Lev Prague on a one-year deal, the Czech team announced Friday.
Zherdev, 28, has been a free agent since June 20, when he was let go by Atlant Moscow Region, the team he has been playing for since his return from North America in 2011.
"Nikolai talked to his family and specialists and decided that this option would be the best for him," Zherdev's agent Yury Nikolaev told R-Sport. "Lev provides Zherdev with awesome financial and living conditions."
Zherdev, a playmaking wing who led Atlant with 37 points in 39 appearances last season, was a surprise inclusion on the team's list of five players available to expansion franchise Admiral Vladivostok last month. Admiral, however, left the forward on the board, likely due to his 60 million rubles-per year salary ($1.85 million).
from RIA Novosti,
Ilya Kovalchuk, who shocked the hockey world last Thursday by abruptly retiring from the New Jersey Devils, has signed a four-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg, making him the first major Russian hockey star in his prime to defect from the NHL to the KHL.
The deal, announced by the club on Monday, signals a coup Russian hockey officials have been fighting for since the mid-1990s, when a wave of players left for North America, depleting a proud hockey nation of its prized talent.
"We're a team but as we know, the role of the individual in history is large so the main effort of the club this offseason was directed at Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the stars of the hockey world," SKA president Gennady Timchenko said in a statement released by the team.
"Ilya has already proven he's a true leader on the ice and off."
On the 2014 Sochi Olympics: “Even if I was offered a role (to promote the Games), I wouldn’t take it. At this point, I want nothing to do with Russian hockey. There are a lot of people who come to the hockey world in Russia who don’t have any idea. It’s all family relationships: ‘I got this job, I can get you a job on this team, too,’ and that person doesn’t know anything about hockey. It’s pretty much if you get hurt in the KHL, you get traded or bought out. You expect that. They’re not developing players or teams, they’re running a business.”
-Alex Kovalev. Read much more on and from Kovalev by Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette.
from the CP at CBC,
Most tend to believe it's an isolated incident, with two agents and one former agent and general manager singling out the once-in-a-generation circumstances that led to Kovalchuk leaving and the Devils permitting him to go without keeping his contract in place or preventing him from signing with a KHL team.
"I don't think it's an epidemic or anything like that," agent Mark Gandler said. "I think each person makes his decision based on the circumstances that he's in, based on his environment, his family, his upbringing."
When Kovalchuk decided to file his voluntary retirement papers, he all but blocked himself from returning to the NHL. Coming back would require him to sit out a year or get approval from all 30 teams.
"I think these are very unique circumstances," said agent J.P. Barry, who represents Malkin. "How many players would want to remove the NHL option from their future? Because by doing this voluntary retirement, they've essentially done that."
Malkin did not want to do that, and he had a choice to do so in the near future. The Pittsburgh star's current contract expired after the 2013-14 season, and Barry said there were multiple offers from KHL teams for Malkin's services.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
We’ve been told for years that a day like this was coming.
Ever since the Kontinental Hockey League came into existence in 2008 and promptly brought Alexander Radulov and Jaromir Jagr over to Russia, the spectre of a rival league that could lure top-level talent away from the NHL hung over the hockey world.
Finally, the KHL has its poster boy.
That Ilya Kovalchuk is headed home in the prime of his career just months before the Olympic Games are held in Sochi, Russia is probably not a coincidence. The financial incentive for someone in his skates has never been greater; neither has the pressure from those with power and influence.
And even though there probably won’t be a flood of players chasing immediately behind him, one industry source with strong ties in Europe wondered aloud Thursday: “The big question is who is joining him?”
For now, that remains to be seen.
from Alexei Bayer of The Moscow Times,
Even though the NHL is still the most prestigious hockey competition, hockey in North America is in crisis. The NHL has been convulsed by regular strikes and player lockouts. But there are deeper problems. In North America, hockey is played on narrow rinks, where big, fast defensemen make it very difficult to skate. Goal cages are too small for huge goalies wearing wide light-weight equipment. With the exception of the four-on-four overtime, NHL games have turned into boring, grinding, low-scoring contests between huge men on skates elbowing each other along the boards. No wonder it is the least popular of the four major team sports in the U.S.
"European" hockey is played on wider surfaces. It is a beautiful, swift game where skating and passing are at a premium. It certainly has a better chance to win worldwide following — if only it can get the right leadership.
Russia is uniquely positioned to provide such leadership. Hockey stars are, along with hydrocarbons and weapons, its only world-class export. In 2008, Russia used its bulk and resources to form a Eurasian league, the KHL, which next year will have teams from 7 neighboring countries, including some hockey powerhouses. A team from Vladivostok will also enter the competition. This may become a gateway to the Far East, and professional clubs may be soon organized in Japan, South Korea, China and even Alaska. American kids, for example, started playing hockey long after NHL clubs appeared in U.S. cities.
What Russia needs is to view the KHL as a purely commercial undertaking and not a national one. It should pattern its business model on the NHL. As matters now stand, the KHL is excessively Russia-centered. Even its main trophy, the Gagarin Cup, has nothing to do with hockey and everything with Russia's chip-on-the-shoulder nationalism and outdated patriotism.
from Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN,
A trip to the rural corners of Lancaster County is like being locked inside a Cracker Barrel. The houses smell like freshly baked bread. There are rocking chairs everywhere, sort of a reminder to slow down and take everything in. Cruise down Route 72, through the rolling hills, and occasionally a horse and buggy will snarl traffic. But that's OK; there's no hurry. Unless, of course, you're chasing something big.
For weeks, the locals had no idea that a Russian hockey team was living among them, running stadium steps, riding a mechanical bull and yelling, "Yeah baby!" after intense workouts. In their Under Armour shirts and Hollister shorts, the players look like average American teenagers. They're not.
This story started two years ago, nearly 5,000 miles away, when a Russian plane crashed and the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional hockey team perished. The world is a great big place, but the hockey world is small. Everyone in the sport was affected that September day in 2011. Players from all over Russia signed up to be part of a new Lokomotiv team in honor of their former teammates, friends and opponents. An American, Tom Rowe, moved to Russia to coach them, even though he didn't speak a lick of the language.
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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.
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