Friday, July 11, 2008

NHL and Kontinental League find some common ice

"Everyone agrees we could make a war very easily, but with no winner. The loser will be the game."-- IIHF President Rene Faisal expressing the thought that jaw, jaw, is better than war, war when it comes to the mobility of hockey players.

The declaration wasn't quite "Peace in our Time", but it was probably as good as it's going to get for the next little while. As the Swiss mountain air apparently did some good, clearing the minds of the world's hockey executives this week. After a few days of Swiss hospitality, the NHL, the NHLPA and its European counterparts were able to cobble together an arrangement, that will at least end the opportunity for poaching players prior to the 2008-09 NHL seasons.

With the new Russian based Kontinental League set to begin this fall, there was some concern that a bidding war for players would take place, whether they were committed to an NHL contract or not. With the discussions of Thursday complete, the two rivals for player talent as well as the various European leagues all decided that for the foreseeable future everyone will respect everybody's contracts, that at least to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

While they have a temporary truce in effect over any raiding parties, the longer range goal of having a well documented policy in place is still a ways away. All of the European federations would like a larger share than the $200,000 compensation fee they get when an out-of-contract player leaves for an NHL franchise. It's been a rather contentious issue for a number of years now, and surely doesn't seem to ready to go away any time soon.

Added to the mix is the rising star of European hockey and monetary offerings, Alexander Medvedev, the money and idea man behind the new Russian league and a fellow with more than a few ideas on how to stock teams in Mother Russia.

To keep him occupied for the next little while the gathering in Switzerland this week nominated Medvedev to a working group that will meet with the goal of creating an international transfer agreement. It would be designed to replace the one that lapsed last month after six European leagues backed out, Russia for their part haven't been part of any formal agreement in three years.

With that past history to work with, one gets the idea that there will be many more discussions at the peace table before any future hostilities break out, but as is always the case one wrong word, or a misguided direction and it could be back to the barricades in no time.

As Eric Duhatschek outlines in his column for the globe and Mail, it may be no more than a temporary lull in the ongoing Cold War between the NHL and its newest rival in the hockey world the Kontinental league.

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