Featuring locked-out NHL stars like Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, you could make the case that the KHL is currently the best league in the world.
Off the ice, however, it’s got a long way to go before it becomes a viable business.
That’s the gist of a Postmedia article on the Russian hockey league, which, according to author Matthew Fisher, “survives off many hundreds of millions of dollars from oligarchs whose dubious fortunes were amassed when they ruthlessly bought up huge state enterprises for a song during the brutal months that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
The article’s worth a read, especially the part about Metallurg Novokuznetsk, a KHL club based in Siberia that apparently has total revenues of just $500,000.
The team is so impoverished that its general manager, Leon Vaysfeld, for years a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs, admitted he only gets a little more than halfway to the KHL’s cap floor of $8 million a year. So some teams have at least 10 times more money to spend on players as he does. The shortfall of $4 million is picked up by the local steel plant.
Yet Novokuznetsk has still managed to sign former NHLers Randy Robitaille, Brent Sopel, and Chris Simon.
Says Robitaille of the KHL:
“At this point this league is not a viable business at this point. How can it be when a good salary in a local plant in Russia is only $600 or $700 a month? To make it a real business you need to sell at least 15,000 seats and have corporate boxes and they have almost no teams with that.
“Most KHL teams are not businesses. They exist as bragging rights for the owners.”