QUEBEC - The Russian Ice Hockey Federation's top boss says the National Hockey League is still the destination of choice among most Russian players.
Vladislav Tretiak, sizing up Team Russia during a morning skate Tuesday at Le Pepsi Colisee, says the NHL is still the most competitive league in hockey and not likely to be supplanted any time soon.
"Russia is making a new league, but I think the number one league is still the NHL," Tretiak said in an interview.
Alex Medvedev, a Russian oil tycoon, is expected to start up the Open Russian 24-team league later this year.
The deep-pocketed league is eyeing current NHL talent to fill out its rosters. Some fringe North American players opted to play in Russia last season.
But Tretiak says the NHL remains the gold standard in the game.
"The Russian leagues are good too, maybe second after the NHL - but it's no competition," Tretiak said.
"The best players play in the NHL and many Russian players want to play in the NHL. The best Swedes, Czechs, Slovaks, Americans all play in the NHL."
It's some of that NHL talent that has Tretiak pleased with Russia's entry at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
The club already has Alexander Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov and Ilya Kovalchuk and hopes to add a few more NHLers as the playoffs continue, namely Alex Kovalev of the Montreal Canadiens and Evegeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks.
"We are waiting on a couple of players and we're looking at the NHL playoffs, but it is the coach's decision," Tretiak said.
"I like Russia we have a good team," Tretiak said, coy when asked whether anything less than a gold medal would be acceptable.
Russia has not won a world championship since 1993 and finished with the bronze when the tournament was held at home last year in Moscow.
Tretiak says he's hopeful that the NHL and European hockey federations can come to some sort of agreement on player transfers.
"I think there should be friendship between the NHL and the Russian leagues," Tretiak said. "That is what I hope."
Tretiak says his hope is that other Russian-born players are not denied a chance to play in North America as he was.
Sitting in Le Colisee Pepsi, where Tretiak played a handful of games, he says not playing in the NHL was his greatest regret.
Tretiak was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the 138th pick in the 1983 NHL draft. He was prepared to come and play in North America but the Soviet government stepped in and vetoed the move.
Tretiak retired shortly thereafter at the age of 32 and says the government made a mistake by interfering in his dream.
"I wanted to play in North America," Tretiak said
"I won many, many gold medals but I never won a Stanley Cup."
Tretiak's grandson Max is in his early teens, a goaltender himself and sports his grandfather's No. 20 jersey.
The venerable Tretiak hopes his grandson might be able to fulfil his dream and play professionally in North America one day.
"For the Russian team first, then we'll see about the NHL," Tretiak said with a smirk.