Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 10/25/13 at 01:52 AM ET
The KHL is most certainly an...intriguing place to play and coach, a place where teams' struggles can be inherently political (see: Sergei Fedorov has yet to make his comeback, but he's skating with the team and taking some pressure off the Central Red Army Sports Club's American coach as a result), a place where players' paychecks can disappear, but they're still expected to play (as was the case recently, or so it was rumored, for Traktor Chelyabinsk), and it's a place where team owners and sponsors aren't just billionaires--they're often people who control vast swaths of Russia's industrial might or natural resources (see: SKA St. Petersburg's sponsor, Gazprom, which is the largest producer of natural gas in the world).
Mike Keenan's coaching one of the KHL's "biggest-market" clubs in Metallurg Magnitogorsk, sponsored by the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, and Keenan shared some of his observations of coaching and life in Russia with USA Today's Kevin Allen:
"This has really been a fascinating study of the integration of different cultures and countries in this truly continental league," Keenan told USA TODAY Sports in a phone call from Russia.
At 64, Keenan has used his NHL experience, wisdom and leadership to drive his KHL team into second place in the Kharlamov Division. But Keenan is just as intrigued by the Russian culture experience as he is by the competition.
Magnitogorsk is a factory town, dependent on the steel industry. It is also a city still in its infancy in terms of exploring all the world has to offer.
"It's really interesting to observe," Keenan said. "They were oppressed people for about 70 years and now when you go to the malls over here they have all of the name brands and McDonald's food. There are so many car dealerships here now, all brand new. In interesting to see people get all dressed up to go out. I think part of what (Vladimir) Putin does is to bring life to the country."
The KHL, in its sixth year, has tried to be a high-caliber league from the beginning. Signing a famous coach such as Keenan fits into the KHL's hopes of being able to attract top talent.
"I'm surprised that the KHL is better than I expected and it continues to get better," said Keenan, who coached 20 seasons in the NHL.
Continued, and Allen's article is worth your time...
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