Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hockey Night in Moscow and beyond

Competition may soon be coming for the NHL and with it may begin the greatest drain of players in league history.

Alex Medvedev a Russian billionaire and one of the nation's leading energy tycoons has begun to put together an action plant to create a European professional league that will not be hiding its ambition to repatriate many of Europe's major stars back to the continent and perhaps entice some of the homegrown North Americans to come along for the ride.

Medvedev has enlisted the help of former NHLPA presdient Bob Goodenow in his venture, which will no doubt provide him with an introduction to many of the NHL's current crop of players both European and otherwise.

It's part of a continental backlash over the raiding of European club teams over the years by the NHL, which has depleted the star quality for many of Europe's teams over the last ten years or so.

The move would also stop in its tracks any plans that the NHL might have had in expanding to Europe itself, at one time there was some thought that a European Division might be added to the NHL, having the European clubs coming across to play a string of games with North American based teams doing likewise. However, that seems to have never progressed much beyond the bar room napkin phase of development.

The proposed league won't be lacking anything in the way of money as Medvedev runs the largest energy companies in Europe, Gazprom provides one-quarter of the natural gas for Europe. Medvedev's company is said to rival that of General Electric and Microsoft as far as financial strength. Something that should give the potential loop some strong financial legs to stand on while it builds up its reserves of players and capital.

The NHL responded with a one sentence answer on Saturday to the potential threat from across the Atlantic. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly offered them his best wishes, "We wish them luck with what appears to be a very ambitious project."

Ambitious yes, but also one that could drive the NHL salary structure upwards while at the same time depleting North America of many of the names that have become famous over the last few years.

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