Since the Olympics last August, there’s been lotsa talk about NBAers going overseas to chase big money playing for European teams. And thanks to a new league that recently revved up in Russia, called the Continental Hockey League (KHL), the NHL is now hearing similar chatter.
(Society For The Preservation Of Cameltoes badly needs tardy payczech)
Jaromir Jagr has been the only high-profiler to make the jump to the first-year circuit, but that doesn’t mean that the league has been a smashing success. Along with the untimely death of Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov during an early season game, the OTTAWA CITIZEN reports the KHL is undergoing some serious financial growing pains.
There have been reports that Ufa, the team that signed forward Alexander Radulov even though he was still under contract to the Nashville Predators, hasn’t paid its players in three months.
The Metallurg team in Magnitogorsk, one of the league’s powers, has also had money problems and the Cherepovets club in Severstal may not have paid its players since August. Moscow Spartak and MVD Balashika, a club sponsored by the Ministry of the Interior (police), are also apparently behind in payments.
Even Jagr’s vowel-challenged team in Omsk is said to have missed payroll.
So what’s the deal?
Well, most of the league’s teams are owned by Russians whose wealth is tied to energy markets (oil/gas/mining), so with the price of energy plummeting in recent months, team owners have lost billions in net worth. And we all know how expensive reconditioned skate sharpeners can be!
Besides the current economic state, another issue is the long-term financial viability of the entire league. Most teams play in small arenas and draw crowds barely into four figures. There are no broadcast and merchandise revenues to speak of. Essentially the league is a bauble for a handful of Russian oligarchs who are looking for some positive public relations.
With no way for the clubs themselves to generate revenue, it appears that if the economy doesn’t get better in a hurry, the KHL may well meet the same demise as Napoleon and the Germans in tempting an unforgiving Russian winter.