What Do KHL Woes Mean For Hockey?
With the Russian economy in free fall, the Kontinental Hockey League’s future appears increasingly precarious.
Rumours of teams on the verge collapse are rife, with some player and coaches going unpaid for several weeks. And the situation looks set to get worse before it gets better.
But the impact of any of the leagues 28 teams folding mid-season won’t just be felt in the Russia, the knock on effect could reach across the hockey world.
Lada Togliatti netminder Jeff Glass (pictured above representing Canada in 2005) spoke to The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell yesterday, painting a bleak picture of the situation on the ground right now:
“It’s not good here right now,” Glass told thn.com in a telephone interview. “Guys are looking to get out. I’m not trying to expose the league, but none of this is right and the players are getting hosed right now and there’s no representation here. Everything had been fair up until about last season and things seem to be falling apart right now. And the ruble is making it tenfold because everyone is starting to panic.”
Glass is now on to his fifth team in four seasons, having originally joined Barys Astana in 2009 after four years in the Senators organisation – and has been largely successful since moving to Russia.
But the situation is becoming increasingly difficult for a growing number of players, with 29-year old mentioning problems for Atlant, Sibir, Medvescak and Dinamo Riga during his interview with Campbell, he he tried to express some of the concerns spreading across the league:
“Guys are starting to get very nervous,” Glass said. “Nobody plans on living in Russia post-hockey. Everybody wants to take these rubles and move them into Euros or dollars and nobody is able to do that now.”
“The KHL, from on the ground, is not looking so hot right now,” Glass said. “And you can see there’s a lot of panic from management, from players, from everybody, agents. Nobody is sure what to do. And you can understand. Nobody’s making any money right now.”
Should the situation continue, or if a team succumbs to the financial turmoil, a number of good quality players could suddenly become available – and whilst there are few that will raise interest from the NHL, the ripple effect of this sudden glut of available talent would likely have an impact across Europe, and perhaps in to the North American minor leagues.
With players such as former Edmonton netminder Jeff Deslauriers, forward David Ullström (an ex-New York Islander, still only 25) and veteran blue liner Milan Jurcina all potentially available if their clubs should fold, roster changes are highly likely both for the surviving KHL teams, and other top European clubs.
And with those roster changes there is a strong chance other players will be released to make way, triggering changes among the ‘second tier’ European clubs as well – and so the trickle down effect begins.
For some it may present an opportunity to plug holes in an injury depleted line up, or add some additional fire power prior to the IIHF transfer deadline – all welcome boosts to clubs vying for play-off positions or silverware.
But with that comes further player movement, affecting jobs and livelihoods.
You can perhaps be a little ‘cold’ about the situation – using the old adage that ‘only the strong survive’; the crisis might solidify the KHL, removing clubs whose finances might have been considered ‘questionable’ even before recent events took hold.
A smaller, more focussed KHL might even be a good thing for hockey – with quality of teams coveted over expansion driven quantity – and smaller KHL teams joining other domestic leagues, (theoretically) raising the quality of those league along the way.
But right now, the KHL’s already battered reputation is taking a further hit; and the impact this economic crisis in the league could have on the rest of Europe may be far wider reaching than many realise.