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Hotstove Tonight crew discusses Olympic participation, top prospects, Giguere and Las Vegas issue

On Saturday's edition of The Hotstove Tonight, the CBC's Elliotte Friedman, Glenn Healy, Kevin Weekes, P.J. Stock and Ron MacLean discussed the incredibly high likelihood of the NHL participating in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia--though details of the NHL-IIHF-IOC partnership are still being worked out...

And the gents also discussed some of the both recently signed and soon-to-be-signed NCAA free agents and draft picks who participated in the Frozen Four, Jean-Sebastien Giguere's rant about his Avalanche teammates, and the NHL debuts of two Swedish top prospects in Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg tomorrow vs. Detroit and Boston Bruins forward Carl Soderberg.

Most importantly, Friedman says that the rumors about the NHL having talked to the Maloof family about moving a team to Las Vegas or expanding there are plain old false, with the NHL having not spoken to the Maloofs in over five years.

As a Red Wings fan, I can't help but grumble about Soderberg: Friedman duly notes that the NHL is about to renew its transfer agreement with the the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, so there's some "strong-arming" going on, but the SIHF initially forbade both Soderberg and Wings prospect Calle Jarnkrok from playing in any NHL games and remaining in North America past April 14th because Sweden is co-hosting the World Championships in Stockholm, along with Helsinki, Finland.

Sweden's going to hold the medal rounds in the second and final year of the Stockholm-Helsinki partnership, and after over-pricing round robin games to the point that the Globen Arena was half-full many nights, the SIHF recruited Nicklas Lidstrom, Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin to serve as ambassadors, they're reducing ticket prices and they've really clamped down on the personnel coach Par Marts wants to employ.

In Soderberg's case, the SIHF had refused to allow him to sign with Boston because it claimed that Swedish contracts don't expire until May 15th (per Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom and Sebastian Mattson), and they insisted that Soderberg was required to report for the Worlds, but Soderberg's agent informed Expressen's Mattias Ek that they'd told the Swedish national team to get bent, and today, SIHF VP Peter Forsberg (not the ambassador Forsberg, another fellow) told Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom that the NHLPA informed them that the previously-signed Soderberg couldn't play for Boston.

The problem here is that the same case is true for Jarnkrok, who the Red Wings signed a year ago and loaned to Brynas IF, but he's leaving the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins tonight to report for the Worlds because that was the only way the SIHF agreed to allow Jarnkrok to play for the Wings' farm team.

For the record, the reason you never see Russian prospects join NHL teams down the stretch is due to a similar situation: the KHL states very plainly that its contracts go from May to May, so they look very poorly upon any players leaving for the NHL, AHL or anywhere else--regardless of their nationality--even though the only teams playing as of April 13th are Dynamo Moscow and Traktor Chelyabinsk, who are battling in the Gargarin Cup Final (Dynamo leads the series 3-1 after a 1-0 win today; and for Wings fans, you know that Alexei Marchenko's been allowed to practice with the Griffins but not play in any games, lest he suffer an injury while still technically employed by Sergei Fedorov and CSKA Moscow. The Wings want to sign him and bring him over to North America, and while CSKA Moscow was eliminated in the 2nd round of the KHL playoffs and Marchenko's iffy to play in the Worlds, rules are rules).

Long story short, for those of you who don't already know it, the World Championships generally take place immediately after European pro leagues' championships are awarded, and the Worlds are gigantic moneymakers for the venues that host them, the IIHF (there's a reason the IIHF gets so twitchy about the Worlds--it makes most of its money from controling the ads and TV/Internet rights to the Worlds) and the World Championship remains a title of enormous international prestige, so if your team has a European-drafted prospect who wasn't allowed to play for that team, even though that team's signed him, now you know why.

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Primis's avatar

Has anyone ever managed to successfully explain WHY the Worlds remain a big deal, since as a rule the best players in the world are rarely involved in it?  I generally find the Worlds incredibly boring and pointless.

Honestly it sounds like it’s time for the NHL to start throwing money around.  Especially with the SEL teams, the NHL clubs should just pay them an amount to be official affiliates, with the understanding that that money then means the NHL clubs can sign and recall when they please.  Many of those SEL clubs could use the extra money, from what I understand.  And affiliations could be done on a year-to-year contract basis, to avoid problems with promotion/relegation.

Posted by Primis on 04/13/13 at 11:18 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The Worlds are a huge deal for European teams. Winning the Worlds is seen as one step below winning an Olympic medal. It’s that big. The “Triple Gold Club” has nothing to do with the Stanley Cup—it’s winning a World Junior Championship, a World Championship and an Olympic gold medal.

And as I recall, there’s prize money involved too—and obviously, hosting the Worlds makes you a crapton of money. TV rights are gigantic, too.

The other thing is that hockey is much more like soccer in Europe—it’s a year-round thing, with players beginning to sign contracts in April and May, based in no small part upon their performances during World Championship play, and starting mandatory dry-land training in late May or early June, taking to the ice in the middle of July and beginning pre-season play in August. 

The KHL begins its regular season on either the last weekend of August or September 1st, and Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, etc. are all up and running by mid-September.

The reason their seasons don’t end the middle of February (the KHL’s does sometimes) is that the season is interspersed with four or five “Euro Hockey Tour” events, which are supposed to drum up support for the national teams, the European Trophy (think soccer’s Champions League) tournament and a long Christmas/New Year’s break.


Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/13/13 at 11:32 PM ET

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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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