Let's face it folks both the NHL and NHLPA are far apart on working out a new CBA, it's unlikely we'll be seeing NHL hockey any time soon. With players all over the world it would be a whirlwind trying to get all those players back to respective NHL teams by the start of the season. If you're truly a hockey fan and not just an NHL fan, it's time to start diverting your attention the other professional leagues. There's the AHL, OHL, QMJHL and many more all with their own unique brand of high level hockey. But perhaps the next biggest league next to the NHL is the recently formed KHL. Last night I was on Sports Rantz radio (83:44, shameless plug) to talk about the latest CBA talks, during the interview I was asked if I was watching or following the KHL. I answered truthfully and told them I wasn't watching the games but was following some of the action, but not nearly as much as I'd like to be. That got me thinking, why am I not watch the KHL?
The KHL officially deemed itself a professional league in 2008 after they broke away from the Russian SuperLeague. In 2008 they started out with 24 teams and today have 26 teams. The KHL is home to many skilled Russian hockey players who could easily be playing in the NHL if they chose to leave their home. But until the current lockout has been largely in the shadow of the NHL waiting for their "big break". Everyone knew the KHL existed, some knew they had some skilled players but few knew where or how to find games to watch those players. The KHL began to gain popularity and recognition when many skilled Russians showed up in the 2012-2013 draft. I myself wanted to watch and focus on more Russian hockey as there are many talented Russian's emerging from overseas. Something had to break and lucky for the KHL it appears the NHL has figuratively broken, giving the Russian league it's "big break".
Now that the NHL is on a temporary break, many top notch Russian players have returned home to play in the KHL, and these players are finally putting a face to the KHL for many North American hockey fans. Two of the biggest being Alexander Ovechkin playing for Dynamow Moscow his former team and Evgeni Malkin playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Not to mention Canadian born Sidney Crosby debating heading over to Russia if the lockout goes much longer. In addition to those big name players the KHL is currently hosting many other NHL players and top notch Russian players.
From watching the highlights it's easy to see that there is some great hockey being played over in Russia right now.
Lots of goals, an up take of physical play and some big saves, everything a hockey fan wants from the game no? It's actually very exciting hockey to watch, even if it's not commentated in english, it's still hockey. Hockey is a universal language that has the power to connect people on various continents no matter what language or cultural berries are present. If it's hockey, it's hockey, who cares where it's being played!
With big name players like the ones mentioned above and others like Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Tyler Seguin, Tyler Ennis, Nail Yakupov and Rick Nash bringing interest and attention from North American fans the KHL is finally in the limelight and not just Russia. The whole world is watching or has the capability to watch the KHL and it's players, could the NHL have handed them a better situation?
Although they can't financially challenge the NHL because of salaries and only a handful of their 26 teams breaking even, they are able to challenge the NHL in terms of talent. There are some darn good players in the KHL who aren't from the NHL, not a single player from the NHL is in the top 25 of KHL scoring, That speaks volumes in terms of the talent over seas. Heck it may even be a good idea for Bettman and the NHL to join forces with the KHL, now I'm not talking about combining them into one league, but perhaps the NHL all-stars can play against the Russian all-stars. It would make the snooze fest known as all-star weekend lot more exciting and globally would be a great thing for the game of hockey.
So while the players take a nice vacation over in Russia, the KHL benefits from their talent. I think it's time to start paying more attention to the KHL and give them more credit, it's not easy to convince NHL players to come and play in your league while the NHL is on strike. Remember if you're a hockey fan and don't think there's any hockey on, you're not a hockey fan, you're an NHL fan. There's lots of hockey out there folks, open your eyes and look. AHL, OHL