from Matthew Fisher of PostMedia News at the Vancouver Province,
With the NHL shut down by a labour dispute, some Russians have bragged that their Kontinental Hockey League is now the best hockey circuit in the world.
There is even giddy talk that the 26-team Russian league, which also has teams in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Latvia, will be primed before too long to challenge the North American circuit for global hockey supremacy.
There is something to the first boast. Half a dozen top NHL players, including two of the best – the sometimes mercurial Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the totally unpredictable Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals – are not sitting out the strike but playing in what Russians call the Motherland.
These stars are ably supported by a fast-skating, technically proficient cast of more than 500 mostly Russian players, including several dozen who could play in the NHL if they chose to. Most of the players may not forecheck, shoot or go to the net often enough, but they nevertheless play compelling hockey.
But any suggestion that the KHL will match the NHL any time soon is absurd.