Elliotte Friedman's notes on KHL, Russia

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filatov.jpgI was going to spotlight Elliotte Friedman’s observations about Russian hockey in the previous quick hits post, but frankly, it’s so awesome that I deemed it worthy of its own post. Friedman traveled to the KHL hub for the CBC and came back with plenty of interesting observations. I’ll try to condense it down to some of my favorite tidbits, but it’s absolutely worth a readSeriously.

Money matters

Us bitter scrappy writer types always like to linger on dollars and cents (some of us even had “follow the money” beaten into our heads by crusty journalism professors), but sometimes the bottom line is a no-brainer.

For one thing, NHL players lose a bunch of money in taxes and escrow accounts that they wouldn’t normally deal with (or deal with to less of an extent) if they played in the KHL. The highlight for me was the shady practices that encouraged winning and success.

4. Then, there’s the bonuses. Guys in St. Petersburg made $1,000 for every point the team recorded during the season. Final total: $122,000. It’s like that all over the league.

5. Two guys who used to play in Russia said it got even better when the envelopes/bags of money come out. One said after three wins in a row, everyone on the team was given a $10,000 cash bonus. Another said a teammate having a great year was given $75,000 in a bag. Players swear, though, there are no more bags/envelopes of cash being handed out.

Quality of play, strange differences

Friedman essentially said that if you took the names and logos off of the jerseys, you’d think that you were watching an NHL-quality game. Although there’s more clutching and grabbing, the games are aggressive and the KHL is “a real skater’s league.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean it lacks some idiosyncratic tendencies.

Strangest hockey phenomenon I saw: teams practice after they get eliminated from the playoffs, because players are paid through April. This does not go over well. I was standing by the bench as practice ended. Two English-speaking players walked off. One said, “How many days of this are left?” The other said, “43.” You know it’s bad when they’re counting.

Former players

He ran into some former players and players who are seemingly on temporary leave. For instance, he discussed the fact that while Alexei Yashin was interested in going back to the NHL, he wasn’t going to do so for the league minimum. There’s also the indication that Alex Radulov and Nikita Filatov would like to come back to North America in the future.

Finally, some funny notes

I’ll leave you with a handful of other funny anecdotes and notes from the piece which, again, you really should read in its entirety.

“Every time sometimes tells me, “Man, traffic is terrible in (insert city here),” it’s always an exaggeration. People always make it sound worse than it actually is. So I didn’t listen when warned about Moscow. But it was brutal. If I had to drive there, I’d be homicidal.”

“Never, ever, ever try to out-drink a Russian, especially when vodka is involved.”

“I met a junior teammate of Alexander Ovechkin’s. He said those who knew him then can’t believe how much of a hitter he’s become. “He never used to touch anyone,” the guy said, laughing.”

Kings’ AHL affiliate gives Emery PTO

Ray Emery
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Ray Emery has agreed to join the Ontario Reign on a professional tryout, according to a team release.

The Reign are the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

Emery attended Tampa Bay’s training camp on a PTO, but he was released after the team claimed Kevin Poulin on waivers from the Islanders.

The 33-year-old had a 10-11-7 record with a 3.06 goals-against-average and a .894 save percentage in 31 games with the Flyers last season.

Even with starter Jonathan Quick struggling, it’s hard to envision this move leading to a return to the NHL for Emery.

The Kings have Quick and Jhonas Enroth with the big club, while veteran Peter Budaj was signed to a two-way contract on Friday.

Goalie nods: Reimer makes first start of the season

James Reimer
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James Reimer will get his first start of the 2015-16 season on Saturday night against Ottawa.

Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock made it clear from the beginning that Jonathan Bernier was going to start on Wednesday against Montreal and Friday in Detroit, while Reimer would get in against the Sens.

“I’ve known this for a long time that (Bernier is) starting and he’s starting on Wednesday and he’s starting on Friday. Reims is starting on Saturday,” Babcock said before the season began.

Things haven’t gone according to plan for Toronto through two games.

Not only have they lost both contests, but Bernier was pulled in yesterday’s 4-0 loss to the Red Wings, and the team has scored only one goal this season.

Reimer, who stopped 12 of 13 shots in just under 40 minutes of action against Detroit, will go up against Craig Anderson.


Cam Talbot will try to get his first win as an Oiler as they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators. Pekka Rinne will start for the Predators.

Carey Price and Tuukka Rask will face-off when the Canadiens and Bruins renew hostilities at the TD Garden in Boston.

Petr Mrazek will be between the pipes when the Red Wings take on the ‘Canes in Carolina. Cam Ward gets the nod for the Hurricanes.

Keith Kinkaid for the Devils. Braden Holtby makes his first start of the year in the Capitals’ season opener.

Steve Mason for the Flyers. Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in their opener.

-Columbus hasn’t confirmed who their starter will be in the back half of their home-and-home with the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist will start for New York.

Jake Allen makes his first start of the regular season for St. Louis. Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

-The Islanders have yet to confirm their starter for tonight’s game in Chicago. Scott Darling for the ‘Hawks after Corey Crawford helped spoil the party in Brooklyn yesterday.

Antti Niemi gets the call for Dallas after he blanked the Penguins in his first start. Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

Jonas Hiller for Calgary. Ryan Miller for the Canucks.

-The Penguins haven’t confirmed who their starter will be in Arizona tonight. Mike Smith will likely play in back-to-back games after beating the Kings on Friday.

-The Ducks have yet to confirm their starter. Martin Jones will start for San Jose.