Former NHLer Brendan Bell reflects on KHL training camp, getting to know Jaromir Jagr

brendanbellott.jpgIt’s been no secret that the mid-level talent exodus of players from the NHL to the KHL has been a growing storyline for the league, particularly this summer. Brendan Bell fits into that category, as the moderately productive offensive defenseman moved to Omsk, Russia to play for Avangard Omsk, a KHL team that happens to employ future Hockey Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.

The Ottawa Citizen features a great story on Bell’s early experience in training camp overseas. First, here’s a quick description of the KHL style of play.

“I haven’t had the four-a-day workouts, the one-hour bag skates of pulling tires and things that some of the others have to go through,” Bell says.

“I talked to Marty St. Pierre (of Embrun) the other night, he’s over here as well (with Neftekhimik). He had one practice where there were tractor tires on the ice, and players on top of them and you had to pull them up and down the ice.”


“There’s lots of skill. Even the fourth-line guys are very skilled. There are no big hits because the ice is so big, and there’s so much room out there.”

“The pace is very, very high. There’s not a lot of dumping the puck, everybody is constantly moving. Everybody is always swinging, guys are darting in and out of holes. So, as a defender, you’ve got to be very aware of what’s going on around you, and as an offensive player, you’ve got to be very creative.”

In many cases, the toughest adjustment for a player in a foreign country (whether it be a European assimilating to North American hockey or vice versa) is breaking the language barrier. Bell says that Jaromir Jagr has been a big help in that process, showing him where the good restaurants are and generally “acting like a kid.” Whether it’s fooling around by making STD jokes at a clinic or showing his obsession with hockey by skating on off-days, the former NHL scoring leader has left quite the impression on Bell.

While Bell has had a few “what have I gotten myself into?” moments – particularly in noting a sharp difference between the middle class and lower class in the geographically isolated Russian region – it seems like Bell is enjoying his time in the KHL. So far, at least.

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    Video: Stamkos lights up Leafs during first game in Toronto since re-signing with Bolts

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 15:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning takes a break during a off-day practice session prior to Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 15, 2016 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    For those Maple Leafs fans who once hoped Steven Stamkos would go to free agency and sign in Toronto, what transpired Tuesday will probably sting for a bit.

    Playing in Toronto for the first time since he re-signed with the Lightning, opting not to test the open market and potentially signing with what is essentially his hometown team, Stamkos scored 1:19 into the contest, after getting sent in alone and beating goalie Frederik Andersen.


    That one might hurt.

    There was even a smattering of boos directed at Stamkos, who has never played a game for the Leafs, when he first touched the puck during Tuesday’s contest.

    You’ll recall that last season, the Stamkos-to-Toronto speculation dominated headlines at times. A bit of a “circus,” indeed.

    There were even ‘Sign Stamkos’ signs being handed out to fans prior to a game between the Lightning and Maple Leafs last season.

    It’s official: Crosby makes season debut for Penguins

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 18, 2015 in New York City. The Penguins defeated the Rangers 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    All signs pointed to it happening earlier in the day, but it is now official: Sidney Crosby is making his 2016-17 debut on Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Florida Panthers.

    Crosby, the captain of the Penguins and the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, missed the first six games of the season due to a concussion. He was injured during practice following the World Cup of Hockey where he led Canada to a championship. Given how much time he missed a few years ago with a concussion only missing six games a positive development for both him and the Penguins.

    Crosby will open the game skating on the Penguins’ top line alongside wingers Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson.

    Along with Crosby return to the lineup, goaltender Matt Murray is also in uniform for the Penguins for the first time this season and will serve as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup.

    Murray, who took over the starting job in the playoffs last year when Fleury was sidelined at the start of the first round, was injured at the World Cup while playing for Team North America and has been sidelined since.

    Even with the return of Crosby and Murray on Tuesday the Penguins are still missing a pretty significant player as defenseman Kris Letang remains sidelined with an upper body injury.

    WATCH LIVE: Sabres at Flyers

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 11: Radko Gudas #3 of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jake McCabe #29 of the Buffalo Sabres fight in the third period at Wells Fargo Center on February 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers won 5-1.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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    The Buffalo Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. This match-up features two teams off to slow starts and looking to work their way up the standings in their respective divisions.

    You can check out the action on NBCSN or the NBC Sports’ Live Extra (7:30 pm ET).


    Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

    Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR

    NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks

    Bylsma: ‘We need to get more’ out of Reinhart

    Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR

    Philadelphia Flyers left wing Michael Raffl (12) maintains control of the puck against New York Rangers center Derick Brassard (16) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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    After missing the last week with an upper-body ailment, Flyers forward Michael Raffl has been placed on injured reserve.

    To fill his spot, the Flyers recalled Taylor Leier from AHL Lehigh Valley.

    Raffl, 27, has appeared in three games this season, scoring once while averaging 12:21 TOI per night. He hasn’t suited up since a 7-4 loss to Chicago on Oct. 18, failing to suit up for Thursday’s loss to Anaheim, Saturday’s win over Carolina and yesterday’s 3-1 defeat in Montreal.

    The Flyers are taking on Buffalo tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

    Philly could make this IR designation retroactive to last Tuesday, which is when Raffl last played. It’s unclear how GM Ron Hextall will handle Raffl’s $2.35 million cap hit with regards to IR, but he’ll need to do some adjusting soon once injured defenseman Michael Del Zotto and forward Scott Laughton get back in the mix.