Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League has set aside $31 million to help its clubs attract players from abroad next season, as part of its bid to eventually challenge the NHL as the world’s top league.
KHL president Alexander Medvedev told the Bloomberg news agency that the money would be used to pay bonuses and compensate players for currency losses. He said KHL clubs were in negotiations to sign NHL players currently out of contract.
KHL chairman Vyacheslav Fetisov said, “Within five years, the Kontinental Hockey League plans to compete on equal footing with the NHL in terms of quality of play and team organization.”
“The future of Russian hockey is not isolation, but internationalization,” he said. “If Europe doesn’t want to be left far outside the NHL or serve as slaves in the NHL, then Europe needs to develop a European league and the base for that has been created in the KHL.”
Medvedev said the financial crisis may knock “two, three at the most” of the KHL’s 24 teams out of the league, but added, “The sponsors and owners understand that hockey in Russia is not just business, it’s of great social importance. It’s not subject to the ups and downs of economic life.
KEVIN MCCULLAGH, SportBusiness International