Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Russian/Euro league signs up Tretiak

One of the most historic and recognizable names in Russian hockey has stepped up to take on a role in the proposed European league, created and funded for the most part by energy tycoon Alexander Medvedev.

Tretiak, who is president of the Russian Hockey Federation, signed a letter of agreement with Medvedev to create the new league which many suggest will become a very competitive rival for talent with the NHL.

Bloomberg news, a business newsgathering service reported on Wednesday that the new league to be called the Continental Hockey League will consist of 20 Russian teams and an undetermined number of foreign squads.

While the NHL and Hockey Canada were taking care not to be too dismissive about the project, there was a bit of an air of superiority to their comments, which seemed to stake the claim of best hockey league in the world as the NHL’s domain.

And while that may very well be true, it’s not a universally held belief, especially in Russia where former Russian national team star and New Jersey Devils defenceman Vyacheslav Fetisov seemed to be solidly on the side of the Continental start up.

Fetisov told a Russian website that the new league could one day be a serious contender to the NHL. Pointing out the public/private financing agreements that will be put in place (Medvedev who runs Russia’s natural gas company Gazprorin and six other state run companies are said to be investing six million dollars each into the project) he believes it won’t be long before the Continental League is a viable and prospering operation.

While they have no plans to try and repatriate Russians currently playing in the NHL, they do believe that they will be able to keep more of the up and coming stars on European soil, ready to help build the continental league.

If successfully launched, it could change the NHL dynamic quite a bit, from providing a bit of leverage for soon to be free agents to slowing down the draining of the Russian and European hockey pool.

Making for interesting times for Gary Bettman and his 30 governors.

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