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Russia’s Legal Battle With NHL Just Beginning

from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
A Russian panel has delayed a decision on whether Evgeni Malkin breached his contract with a team in that country by signing to play for the Penguins. The three-member board, known as the arbitration committee of the Russian Hockey Federation, postponed a hearing on Malkin's case until Sept. 15. Tuesday, however, it ruled that two other players, Alexei Mikhonov and Andrei Taratukhin violated their contracts with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl by signing with Edmonton and Calgary, and said those two cannot play in the NHL until their Lokomotiv deals expire.

A Russian newspaper, Sport Express, reported that the panel made its judgments against Mikhonov and Taratukhin after applying a provision of the Russian Federal Sports Law rather than Article 80 of the Russian Labor Code to their cases.
Article 80 allows employees to sever ties with an employer by giving at least two weeks’ written notice, something Mikhonov, Taratukhin and Malkin did before signing in North America.

“It’s never been able to enforce its rulings in North America before,” said J.P. Barry, one of Malkin’s agents. He acknowledged, though, that the only precedent of which he is aware was a judgment against Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin that did not hold up when challenged in a United States court last year.
Barry also confirmed that Malkin’s former team in the Russian Super League, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, had filed paperwork requesting a hearing on his situation late last week, at the same time Yaroslavl did so for Mikhonov and Taratukhin.
“I anticipated they would have a decision on all three [earlier this week],” Barry said. “It’s curious that they haven’t done anything on Malkin. I guess we’ll have to wait for their next step.”

The battle’s just beginning.  The Russian Hockey Federation faces a stiff uphill climb, but they’ll mount a challenge against U.S. legal precidents to save face.  All that “sports terrorism” business and the bologna about demands for a “global condemnation” of the NHL’s policies will be rehashed over the next few months.

Heck, Magnitogorsk fired off another shot yesterday:

“Naturally, we will seek a compensation for the damages from Pittsburgh,” Magnitogorsk vice president Pavel Krasheninnikov said in an interview to the Sovetsky Sport daily. “The man has fled from us having an acting contract for a year. It was specified in it that Malkin in not entitled to play for any clubs except for Metallurg. So we are starting a lawsuit in the coming days.”

“I believe we have chances to win. After all, the agents admitted that they organized the getaway. The guy gave in to the sway…”

“At the same time, I would like to state that no excessive pressure was applied on Zhenia by Magnitka during the signing of the contract with our club. Yes, we reasoned and persuaded him to stay. This is a regular deal for each team that is interested in a player. Please get me right: Malkin’s getaway is not a Metallurg’s private affair. It has to do with the entire Russian ice hockey. That is why we must not leave the business adrift.”

Pressure?  No.  Following a kid home repeatedly, then bringing the owner over at 10 PM to “reason” and “persuade” till 3 AM?  That’s not “excessive!”

There’s another twist to this mess: as noted in a previous story, Yaroslavl’s owner, Vladimir Yakunin, is one of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s best pals. 

That means the Russian Federation has a vested interest in not only financial compensation, but also acquiring said compensation in such a way as to not ruffle too many NHL feathers.

Why?

Yakunin and his fellow Superleague owners will face some real trouble next spring if the IIHF and NHL decide to prevent Russian NHL’ers from playing in the World Championships in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  Putin’s “St. Petersburg KGB office buddies”—and Yakunin was part of that group—are the people who run the show in Moscow, and Putin’s a proud Petersburger and a huge hockey fan, so any messing with the Worlds equals a slap in Putin’s face.

Ticking off the NHL is one thing.  Angering the man who can now dissolve the nation’s parliament on a whim, and refill it with officials of his own choosing, is quite another.

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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.

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.

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