Category Archives: European Hockey
The regular season has concluded in KHL and it’s now that time of the year, where we all throw ourselves into the most exciting time of the year for European fans – the KHL play-offs. This year, there are hopes of every exciting battle for every inch of the ice, with match-ups in the first round, we begin the preview of the post-season festivities.
Following the recent revelations that there was some interest in bringing a KHL team to the UK, The Purple Army Podcast hosted a round table discussion to mull over the news and what it might mean for hockey in Great Britain.
Hosted by Graeme of the Purple Army Podcast, the panel included Jono Bullard of The Cats Whiskers, current Braehead Clan netminder and former KHL puck stopper Chris Holt, KHL writer Aivis Kalnins and yours truly, with conversation ranging from possible locations for a KHL team in the UK to whether Great Britain could support a team as well as those all important financial commitments that come with submitting a side in to the game’s second biggest league.
While much of the hockey world has been talking about NHL expansion in to Las Vegas or Quebec City, it’s the Kontinental Hockey League that will be adding to it’s ranks.
An as yet unnamed team is set to play out of Beijing’s MasterCard Centre as of next season, signalling hockey’s first significant foray in to the world’s biggest economy.
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.
Whilst the final may have been contested between two old enemies; this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi demonstrated both how far the women’s game has come in many other nations, and how the standard of goaltending has risen across the board.
It was, essentially, a ‘given’ that either Canada or Team USA would take home gold in the women’s hockey tournament – but where Amanda Kessel et al were the focus before the tournament, it was two European netminders who ultimately stole the show.
The Finnish goaltending program once again earned praise from the wider hockey community during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
It’s not the first time the Scandinavian nation has been applauded for its efforts between the pipes, nor will it be the last – as the number of elite Finnish netminders continues to rise.
But how has Finland set itself apart when it comes to perhaps the most specialised position in all of sport?
I asked goaltending guru Jukka Ropponen what set Finnish hockey on this path, how it has helped develop not only goaltenders, but also goalie coaches, and what the Finns can teach other nations.
For many, Russia’s defeat to Finland in today’s quarter final matchup was a shock.
It’s understandable why people see it that way – the Finns were absent their top three centres and the hosts were one of the favourites in Sochi.
But the Scandinavian’s habit of getting it done on the international stage once again shone through, whilst Russian played like a side built around individual talents.
The Finns demonstrated perfectly that a team first ethos (combined with a good goalie) will trump raw skill more often than not. Sadly for some, it was Russia’s defeat and not a victory for an opposing team, playing like a team, in a sport which so often preaches the virtues of ‘the name on the front of the shirt, not the back’.
No, it became an opportunity to make snide remarks and snarky comments about Russian hockey and the KHL…