Canucks and Beyond

How to Start a War. And End One.

08/04/2008 at 4:05pm EDT

Earlier today, John Glennon at The Tennessean noted that the International Ice Hockey Federation will determine the status of the Nashville Predators’ Alexander Radulov in the next two weeks.

If the IIHF finds that the KHL acted improperly, Glennon also noted some possible outcomes:

the IIHF could pressure the KHL to void Radulov’s Russian contract

the IIHF could choose to “red flag’’ Radulov, which would lead to sanctions against Radulov and/or his team.

Sanctions? Like what?

Sanctions like this:

“[The IIHF] could ban Radulov or the Russian national team from playing in IIHF-sponsored events like the Olympics or World Championship.”

Good grief—Does anyone think there is a chance that such a ban would ever happen? I personally hope not. It would fix the problem with the Radulov situation (and pretty fast, no doubt) but it would almost certainly make things worse in the long run.

Earlier today, Kukla posted this article by David Boclair, who has one of the best ideas for resolving this mess that I’ve seen so far.

[The] best compromise is for the Predators to allow him (Radulov) to walk with the understanding that his contract with them, which has one year remaining at $984,200, will be frozen. If or when he decides to return to the NHL, it will be with Nashville under the terms of that remaining year.

Would that be an entirely fair result for the Nashville Predators? Perhaps not, but what else is going to work?

This is a PR war at the moment, and if you believe the NHL’s PR, Radulov’s Russian signing violates the verbal agreement from last month that stated Russian and NHL officials would stop poaching players under contract to the other side. But if you buy the Russian PR, Radulov’s contract was finalized before the verbal agreement went into effect.

It’s a He said, (S)he said situation, and how you interpret “finalized” is probably the core issue here. It’s also something that neither side is ever likely to agree on given their opposing interests.

But a PR war is better than a total meltdown between both sides… and banning the entire Russian hockey program from international play because of the contract arguments happening between what are essentially two private businesses—the NHL and Predators VS the KHL and Salavat Yulaev —is a completely unreasonable threat.

Besides, while the NHL appears to be on the side of the angels in this whole Radulov mess, they’ve done their own share of poaching over the years. And while the current agreement with Russia means the ground rules are different now than in the past, the hypocrisy would be a little tough to stomach.

The IIHF is going to be criticized no matter what they decide, and the only functional solution to this mess probably lies with the KHL and the NHL, themselves.

For everyone to move on, the NHL has to accept the fact that—at least for this season—Radulov is gone. And the KHL needs to be on its best behavior from here on forward.

The KHL has acknowledged that they consider last month’s agreement to be binding, and argue that they haven’t broken that pact. So if everyone can follow the rules from here on out, perhaps a shaky truce can get a little stronger?

If they can achieve détente, maybe that truce will survive to see another day.

And since no less than nuclear wars have been avoided by using such tactics in the past, I’m pretty sure a couple of hockey leagues can figure it out.


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