Monday, December 15, 2008

why the khl is not a threat to the nhl.

okay, so i've decided to write about more things than just my trip.......

Recently in the news there has been much hullaballoo about how much impact the newly formed Kontinental Hockey League(KHL) will have on the National Hockey League. Due to a variety of factors including dropping commodity prices and severe mismanagement the league will not be a threat, or even much of a competitor to the NHL for plenty of years to come.

As of now, there are 21 teams in the league, spread out across Russia, Latvia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The teams are owned by Russian oligarchs who have recently become supremely wealthy because of a surging oil price. The league was seen as an opportunity for the super rich to flaunt their wealth by placing teams in their home towns with little regard for their fanbases. Plenty of teams are in small markets that would seem "risky" to north american experts, or there is too high a concentration in a large city. In the NHL, the largest concentration of teams to a city is in New York with the Rangers and the Devils(I'm not counting the Islanders, they have their own fanbase, on Long Island). Whereas, in the KHL, CSKA Moscow, Dinamo Moscow, Soviet Wings and Spartak Moscow are all fighting for the support of Moscow's citizens. When the league was started the price of oil was around $150/barrel, now it goes for $43, the money that the KHL was founded upon has disappeared. Already, in some cases owners have not been able to pay their players.

Aside from the tragic incident that occured at an Avangard Omsk game that ended in the death of Alexei Cherepanov, there are plenty of examples of poor management in the new Russian league.Further, none of these teams are playing at the two year old 14,000-seat Khodynka Arena that was constructed for the World Junior tournament, this leaves the historically formidable CSKA Moscow(Red Army) playing in the same crumbling stadium as they had in the communist era. The league is not being marketed nearly as well as it could be. The televised broadcasts are mismanaged and no where near the standard of the NHL.

These flaws could be just a part of a growing period for the KHL. But, without the obscene amounts of money expected from oil, there is not nearly enough money to lure away the NHL's superstars. It seems as though it could be an option for Europeans who cannot adapt to the culture shock in North America and fringe NHLers who cannot crack a roster spot and do not want to play in the American Hockey League.

In the case of it growing to become a competitor to the NHL, then fair play to them. I would love to see a sort of Champions League or Club World Cup for Ice Hockey. It would be great for the sport. But, as of now, it looks as though the NHL's prowess is here to stay.

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