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“Most KHL teams are not businesses,” says KHL player

Oct 18, 2012, 2:35 PM EDT

Randy Robitaille

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.”

Related:

Ovechkin calls KHL the best league currently in action

Ovechkin says he’ll stay in the KHL if the NHL cuts salaries

  1. blomfeld - Oct 18, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    ““Most KHL teams are not businesses. They exist as bragging rights for the owners.”

    It’s possible that no “truer” words have ever been spoken about the Kontinental Hockey League. Now normally a lot of us are trying to have some fun here at PHT, or at least I am. :) But on this topic, I say “bravo” to Brough for not pulling any punches ! The fact that the KHL … “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” … should sum it up plain and simple for those not in the know. Hopefully now people can realize that Ovechkin’s threats of staying over there, were nothing but utter and complete nonsense ! It’s also funny now when you think back to Zetterberg’s naive comment that … “they honor their contracts over there” … a statement which I found to be extremely odd coming from a Swede, a people who are usually a little more worldly than that ? Yeah, I bet these oligarchs are really concerned about things like honoring contracts, bargaining in good faith or keeping their word, eh ? Wait until Ovechkin starts “mysteriously” missing paychecks … then you’ll see the clown change his tune pretty quick ! Anyway, this article goes to show that the NHL has absolutely nothing to fear from the KHL … not today, not tomorrow !

    • elvispocomo - Oct 18, 2012 at 4:06 PM

      You don’t think they don’t have enough money to keep him happy over the next few years? That’s not an issue, it’s doing so for more and more players as an alternative to the NHL and trying to keep the teams financial viable long term.

      • blomfeld - Oct 18, 2012 at 5:15 PM

        Sorry Elvis, but that’s not what I’m referring to. These guys have more money and will “continue” to have more money than they could ever possibly know what to do with. What I’m talking about is the fact that these oligarchs or “thugs” if you will, play by a completely different set of rules from what we’re accustomed to here in the West … and guys like Ovechkin or Kovalchuk would know about that only too well.

  2. elvispocomo - Oct 18, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Not surprised at all by that. Russia isn’t quite the state it used to be under communism, where Levi’s and Coke were novelties, but people there are hardly making the same money as many North Americans. You have to have fans with money to make a successful, long-term business, since the owners don’t have unlimited funds forever.

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