I 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 read. Seriously.
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.
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.”