Saturday, June 19, 2004



The IIHF vs. The NHL, at least, on the ice and not bickering over money.

It seems the IIHF is seriously considering a side-tournament that would see the NHL Champion take on the IIHF Champion (The Winner of the New Super 6 tournament).

This brings back memories of the traveling teams from the USSR (Dynamo Moscow, Red Army Team, and Khimik) playing in exhibition games versus the NHL Teams. One of my first card collecting memories involves those cheap 'Super Series' Russian sets with such strange names as 'Artur' Irbe and Valeri Zelepukin. During the Cold War era, this was the first chance to see players and a style of hockey that we'd never been exposed to before. The Russians were a mysterious bunch and the NHL teams had plenty of incentive not to lose these 'exhibition' games to a bunch of robotic Russians, lest face the ridicule of the home fans.

So, what to think about the IIHF's current idea?

Devil's Advocate -


As if the NHL season wasn't long enough, do we really need more games added to the schedule? I need a break from watching hockey in July and August, and save for the occasional World Cup, most fans could live without even more hockey.

Really, do you see the NFL Super Bowl champs play the NFL Europe champs? Do the World Series winners play the winner of their minor leagues?
Obviously, the most talented players are already in the NHL, so why should the NHL champions be forced to play against 'minor' league players, or inferior competition? They've already played against the best of the best, so what's the point in forcing them to play against some lesser team from Siberia?

The players? Do you think the players want to add more games to their schedule? The cup winners already play about 110 games a season, and obviously don't have enough time to heal their injured bodies during the short offseason. Why not let the winners have a nice relaxing vacation for their efforts, rather than totally destroy whatever joint cartilage they have left.

The fans? Do they really pine to see the engrossing matchup between Martin St. Louis and Petr Leska?.
Sure, fans in Europe would love to see the NHL players against their own teams, but the real money and fanbase is in North America, and this matchup wouldn't mean much to many of them. I don't think a hockey fan in Columbus is going to get worked up over a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Frankfurt Lions.

As much as the IIHF would gain from this for their European contingent, the NHL wouldn't gain much at all. In fact, if the NHL team were to lose this 'series' against the Euro team, and possibly face a major injury to one if its stars, then the NHL has everything to lose in this deal.

Angel's Advocate

Wow, aren't you the closed-minded one? Weren't you the one that was chiding the Russian players for being too soft to play for their country?

Let's face it, the NHL is a poorly marketed league, and should take advantage of any and all opportunities to market itself. You don't think the European market is important? Considering how many players come from Europe and how many hockey fans exist in some of those countries, it would serve the NHL very well to market itself to the fans over there.

If the players are so willing to play in the World Cup of Hockey, then why wouldn't they accept a 3-game series (just my idea) against the European Champions? If they cut 3 exhibition games from the Champions' schedule, they could easily fit this in.

Remember, the Canucks and Leafs have already had training camps and exhibition games over in Sweden, so it's not as if they don't have precedent.

As for the comment regarding 'inferior' talent; just because the players aren't in the NHL does not make them inferior. There are some world-class and ex-NHLers playing for these top teams in Europe. Pavel Patera, Petr Leska, Jesse Belanger, and Peter Ratchuk are some of the names that the NHL teams could be up against. Just because a player can't excel in the NHL, doesn't mean they aren't talented players. Patera, especially, is an example of a player who has excelled for his country (Czechia) and European club teams, but just wasn't built for the NHL. In a short series, the talent levels wouldn't likely lead to a total lopsided NHL blowout.

If the fans in the NHL don't care, then play the games in Europe exclusively. The NHL fans can focus on its own exhibition games, while the European fans can enjoy some fine hockey. I would just hope that the NHL would televise these games for the North American audience.


Personally, I would love to see a series with HC Zlin vs. the Lightning, but it wouldn't be something I would clamour too hard for. Since I follow hockey a lot more than most any North American fan, the NHL wouldn't exactly have a lot to gain from this on this side of the ocean.

Now, European teams end their season in April and start playing exhibition games in August(!), so this would have to be fit around the NHL's schedule to the disruption of the European leagues.

It would be a great idea for the NHL to take any such series out of the schedule for the cup champs, so as to not burden them with any extra games. These exhibition games would be a good warmup for the champs, and would be an exceptional marketing ploy in Europe. I don't see the NHL in Europe in the next 20-30 years, so this could be the next best thing.

Of course, it all comes down to $$$. As the IIHF and NHL will soon be renegotiating the current Transfer Agreement, the NHL could use this as a bargaining chip to get what it wants (Basically, players on the cheap). If the IIHF wants this tournament, then they will have to give up some concessions to the NHL. Of course, the stupid Russian Federation could throw a wrench into the whole thing...

The NHL currently has more important issues on hand, so I don't see this 'Series' happening for another 2-3 years, if at all. The NHL has more to lose than to gain from this deal, unless they can get a sweet deal in the next Transfer Agreement.

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