Former Senators goalie Ray Emery gave up six goals in his KHL debut. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Maybe it’s the newness factor, maybe it’s because not only games, but meaningful games, have already been played, but I’m kind of getting excited about the Kontinental League.
After a summer of scant information on the KHL, the Russian-based circuit finally has a website up and the regular season has already began.
Granted, there are some roadblocks.
For example, you can’t read the league’s website in English yet, so with my limited (i.e. non-existent) understanding of the Russian language, I’ve been cracking codes like Lester Freamon on The Wire just to figure out that Marcel Hossa had four points in his first two games for Dinamo Riga, who currently sit on top of the standings alongside Metallurg Novokuznetsk and their 16-year-old wunderkind Maxim Kitsyn.
In other former NHLer news, Jaromir Jagr logged more than 20 minutes of ice time in Avangard’s first match, tallying one assist in a 4-2 loss to archrival Ak Bars Kazan, while Ray Emery took the ‘L’ for Atlant Mystichi in a 6-5 OT loss to Moscow Spartak.
Are the games good? I don’t know. The only clips I’ve seen involve some suspect goaltending in the Salavat/Yaroslavl match and Chris Simon and Darcy Verot pounding the daylights out of two Russian opponents who clearly found out why the two North American goons were brought over.
But again, this is from a limited perspective and it is only the beginning of the season. With talk of a KHL-style Scandinavian League heating up – one involving top teams from Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway – the KHL’s early returns will be key for curious observers in the greater hockey community. Having a video-capable website is a great start.
Besides game play, finances have been a consistent point of criticism (since every hockey writer clearly has Warren Buffett-like skills when it comes to money). Now I’m not saying there won’t be problems – Dave King’s excellent book King of Russia, the tale of the Canadian coach’s time with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, detailed the sketchiness in players getting paid consistently in the old Super League, but hopefully that’s a thing of the past.
As for the oil barons and oligarchs who run KHL teams losing money, I’ve said this before about the multi-millionaires who own NHL franchises: I don’t care. If these guys love hockey and don’t mind tossing a few rubles around to ice a successful team, that’s all that matters. Besides, I think oil in Russia is going to be a pretty safe investment in the short-term.
In the meantime, enjoy yourself some KHL action until the NHL returns to the ice. Just remember that ‘P’ equals ‘R’ in the Russian alphabet and they like to call Emery “Raymond.”
Clearly ‘Hockey Mom’ has become the phrase du jour in American politics this week (a la ‘NASCAR Dads’ or ‘Swift Boated’), but if you think we’re going anywhere near Republican vice-presidential candidate and puck parent Sarah Palin after the flak we took for reporting presidential candidate John Kerry was a huge hockey fan in 2004, you’ve got another thing coming.
Unless Palin’s soon-to-be son-in-law Levi Johnston gets a scholarship to play for the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks (or Anchorage Seawolves, for that matter), this one’s up to y’all to decide for yourselves.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every second Friday, and his feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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