Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 09/21/12 at 02:15 AM ET
The number of high-profile players heading over to play in the KHL has Sportsnet's Michael Grange wondering if the NHL could have another WHA on its hands, especially given Dynamo Moscow's signing of an outspoken Alex Ovechkin, but any suggestion thereof should be greeted with some skepticism given that the KHL almost entirely subsidizes player contracts and operating costs via sponsorship deals with huge oil, natural gas, heavy industry or other natural resource-controlling oligarch or organization.
Grange also points out that there's no small amount of political pressure on KHL teams to bulk up for the good of the Russian national team given that winning anything less than Olympic gold medal in Sochi is completely unacceptable to and might yield very bad news for whoever runs Comrade Putin's team:
"They have a very unstable business model that doesn't justify what they spend," said one NHL executive of the KHL. "They are propped up politically and the question remains what the appetite will be for that after (the 2014 Winter Olympics in) Sochi."
But any league that can pay Ovechkin has to be taken seriously, and if the overall strategy for the league is difficult to discern -- the NHL of Europe? Global domination? A propaganda machine in advance of 2014? -- those that have dealt extensively with the Russian hockey world have returned with a few simple observations.
First: "If the NHL ignores the risk the KHL poses, they do so at their peril," said one player agent who didn't want to be named because of his business ties in both leagues. "These guys are nuts."
Second: "Do they have the money to blow the doors of the NHL? Yes," said the player agent. "If Vladimir Putin wanted to blow the doors of the NHL, he could do that. The government of Russia has more money that the NHL."
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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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