Friday, October 28, 2005


A Civil War in Russian Hockey?

"Oh, those Russians!"

Joeri Loonen from pointed me to an interesting development in Russia. Apparently, Russian sports minister Vyacheslav (Slava) Fetisov is very close to the launching an ambitious new hockey league and it could get bloody.

the Declaration was signed by the general managers of Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Avangard Omsk, CSKA Moskva, Spartak Moskva, Severstal Cherepovets, SKA St.Petersburg, Khimik Moscow Region, HC MVD Tver, Molot-Prikamie Perm and the Minister of Tatarstan Republic, which is part of Russian Federation, Marat Bariev. (There are two teams from Tatarstan in RSL – Ak Bars Kazan and Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk).

As it stands now, Dynamo Moskva, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Lada Togliatti, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Vityaz Chekhov, Sibir Novosibirsk and Salavat Yulayev Ufa declined to sign this Declaration.

The launch of EAHL is planned for next autumn. There will be nine Russian teams participating in the inaugural season as well as three teams from ex-USSR countries – Ukrainian Sokol Kiev, Belarus Keramin Minsk and Kazakhstan Kazzinc-Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk. The EAHL plans to expand in its second season when 16 teams are to be in the league. Most likely the additions come from two Russian teams, one team from Latvia and two teams from Eastern Europe region.

In its third season EAHL is going to consist of 20 teams. The EAHL will have draft system like the NHL has.

So, Fetisov has quite a few of the big power teams, but not all of them. Would Lada, Novokuznetsk, and Ufa all stay within the old league and try to compete against the breakaway league?

Not only will Fetisov have to fight the 'old guard', but he'll be up against the IIHF which will want to control the league under its umbrella.

Go to the article for full details.

While the WHA failed miserably in North America, it looks like Fetisov's EAHL could finally shatter the grip the old guard has on Russian hockey. I also like the fact that teams from places like Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan will be included. Those smaller (in terms of hockey populations) countries usually just have 1-2 good teams and the leagues don't seem all that competitive to me.

I wonder if they will fold any of the ALIH teams into this. There is one in Eastern Russia, two in China, 3 in Japan, and 2 in Korea I believe.
"Would Lada, Novokuznetsk, and Ufa all stay within the old league and try to compete against the breakaway league?"

I should say Dynamo and Lokomotive is the most powerful (in all terms) pair within non-signing teams...
Yeah, Lada Togliatti isn't doing very well. The team's sponsor (Lada, the automaker) had to cut the budget by 50%, so the General Manager was let go and starting in Novemeber a lot of Lada's players are going to transfer to other teams.

This, plus a lawsuit filed by the Washington Capitals, could mean that we see Lada's top player, Alexander Semin, back playing in the U.S. with the Caps very soon.
It is interesting, too, that Bure has apparently been offered the job of GM for the Russian National team.
You have to wonder that the Russian club with the best management and best organization (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl) hasn't signed the declaration.
Moreover it's a political move. Fetisov, as a Putin minister, wants to support the idea of a common influence sphere with "brother states" which could escape his control (like Ukraine).
Fetisov directly named the Kazakhstan and Belarus dictat... sorry, presidents, as the ones who could support his idea (they are close to Russia).
The idea could fit to Belarus to a political point of view, but not to a sports point of view : they've had a great development during the last years, a strong national league (of course it can't be compared to Russia, but how could it be ?). Many new rinks and new teams appeared in the last ten years. Join the EAHL to help political relations would break their development.
Sokol Kiev travels with the bus... Who would pay them a plane trip to Omsk ?? Ukrainian national team struggles to fund a plane to go to an international game...
A NHL-style game wouldn't be accepted by European fans, just see what has been happening in Voskresensk, the loving hockey city which brought to the world so many star players like Larionov & co. Khimik has played before a few hundred fans lately because the team will live to another city thanks to another political decision (Moscow region governor Boris Gromov said so). Sure the Russian fans wouldn't protest the way German fans are doing now because the democratic habits are not the same, but they will be lost the same...
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