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NHL starting the season in Russia again in 2011-2012? Nyet!

Mar 26, 2011, 9:56 PM EST

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At the beginning of this season when the NHL sent eight teams to Europe to begin the season and play exhibitions against some of the pro teams around the continent, the most intriguing arrangement involved the Hurricanes playing the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg. With that game being a bit rougher than most exhibitions go, the NHL had some worries about going back at it again next year.

Those memories sitting fresh in the minds of the NHL executives and the inability to negotiate peaceably with the KHL have eliminated the possibility of the NHL kicking off the 2011-2012 season in Russia. Jeff Z. Klein and Stu Hackel of the New York Times share with us that the two dysfunctional sides will be taking a pass on working things out to get the Rangers and Capitals to kick off their seasons abroad next year and a big reason why centers around that SKA-Hurricanes game.

According to Bill Daly, the N.H.L. deputy commissioner, a key reason for the lack of agreement on exhibition games was the contentious game between SKA St. Petersburg and the Carolina Hurricanes last October.

SKA won, 5-3, but the Hurricanes did not allow their captain and star, Eric Staal, off the bench for the last 25 minutes because, Coach Paul Maurice said, SKA body checkers “were getting awfully close to his knees.”

Asked Friday if the deal fell through because of what happened on or off the ice in St. Petersburg, Daly replied, “The former.”

Who says exhibition games don’t count for anything?

While that game had a lot of attention paid to it in Russia because of the NHL and KHL having such a contentious relationship, it didn’t really register on the radar of NHL fans at all during the preseason. Now, it’s the leading reason why the NHL and KHL at least won’t be going back next year.

The grumpy tinkle-tinkle contest between both sides is maddening because while the NHL is the big dog of all the pro leagues, the KHL wants to be their main competitor but aren’t actually close to being that even in spite of the star power and press releases from Moscow. The NHL hates seeing any of their stars go to Russia and Russia is more than happy to welcome them over to put one over on the league.

Of course if the two leagues could put their bad feelings aside and work out a transfer agreement, things would work out much smoother for both sides. The two sides haven’t had a working transfer agreement since the KHL was formed in 2008. Having these types of spats with both sides being too stubborn to work out anything is disheartening because both sides, the NHL in particular, could benefit from a working agreement.

Instead, Russian fans will be denied the opportunity to see Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and Semyon Varlamov play on home ice in their home country. Both sides should be trying to win fans from all over instead of screwing them over.

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