Moscow — After weeks of uncertainty and speculation about the hockey tournament at the Olympics in Russia now hopes that can be a winner at the Olympic Games in South Korea in 2018.
Russia more than 25 years waiting for Olympic gold medals, and its highest hockey League intended to compete with the NHL for the international markets, and therefore the absence of NHL players in Pyeongchang in February next year could be a Golden opportunity.
The Olympic games are “the biggest, most important event in world sport,” said Vyacheslav Bykov, who won as a player gold medal at the Olympics in 1988 and 1992, and then coached the Russian national team. “Participation in the Olympic Games is much more important than the Stanley Cup”, he added.
The Russian hockey system is a tangle consisting of sports, governmental and commercial interests, however, all parties consider Olympic gold as a national priority. After the Bulls and unified team of former Soviet Republics 25 years ago, won the gold medal in Albertville, France, the best result for Russia was defeated by the national team of the Czech Republic with the score 0 — 1 in the Olympic final in 1998, and it was the first Olympic tournament, which was allowed to participate players from the NHL. On their home ice in Sochi in 2014, Russian team lost with the score 1 — 3 Finland in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.
The NHL announcement on Monday that the League is closed to provide its players the opportunity to play in Pyeongchang, strengthens the position of Russia. The existing Russia’s Continental hockey League (KHL) many consider the best professional League outside of North America, and it is played by such talent and former NHL players like Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Voynov. In case if some NHL players will be allowed to participate in the Olympic Games, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, his teammates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov, as well as the star of the team from Pittsburgh Evgeni Malkin said of his plans to go to South Korea.
In this case, Russia will be the favorite in the fight for the gold medal, even if Canada and the United States will be able to rely on a small group of stars from the NHL.
“They will benefit because they will have guys from the NHL, and they have guys who went to play at home,’ said Corey Hirsch (Corey Hirsch), goalkeeper of team Canada, who won the silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer. — They will get players from the NHL. But it will not mean that we are back in 1980-e years”.
Less known to fans in North America are players like Vadim Shipachev, who became the top scorer at last year’s world Championships, and Evgeny dadonov. They’re both, say, are going to leave the team, SKA from St.-Petersburg and to move to the NHL.
Giving them the chance to go can serve as a litmus test for the Russian Olympic hopes.
As players are faced with a choice between contracts with the NHL and the opportunity to for the first time in over a generation Olympic gold medals, the Federation of hockey of Russia is trying to “return home” of stars from North America and to deprive young talents to leave the KHL, said on Wednesday last week, the Chairman of the Board of the hockey Federation of Russia Arkady Rotenberg.
If the Russian players that have contracts with the NHL, wants to go to Pyeongchang, the Rothenberg promised to help them with paying the legal costs. Rotenberg embodies the close relationship of sport and government in Russia.
Being a close friend of President Vladimir Putin, Rotenberg became a billionaire largely because of the award of government contracts. His nephew Roman Rotenberg is the Vice-President of the club, SKA St. Petersburg, where today play Datsyuk, Kovalchuk and Voynov, and their contracts are paid for by money provided by the state gas company “Gazprom”.
KHL depends largely on funding controlled by the state companies and regional governments. Since the Kremlin focuses its attention on control of governmental spending, the last several years were “lean” for the KHL. However, there are exceptions to the ceiling of wages for the leading Russian players wishing to return home.
“I think all the fans in Russia will be happy if our players, Russian players will play in the NHL and to play for the national team at the Olympic games, — said Bykov. — Yes, it is Patriotic, but it’s a personal decision of each player”.
Schedule a break during the Olympics is not a problem for the KHL, and the League makes up its season to not only consider the timing of the world Cup, but also the training team throughout the year.
The KHL is trying to stay ahead of the NHL to potentially lucrative Asian market, and one team from China since August of last year, is already taking part in the tournament. If the KHL will be an Olympic star in South Korea, and the NHL will not participate, the Russian League will be able to strengthen its position in Asia. KHL tried to use the mistakes of the NHL in the past, especially in terms of attracting star players during the recent lockout, but it attempts to go beyond the former Soviet Union often face financial problems or lack of interest of local fans.
However, for many people in Russia, the intrigue between the NHL and KHL is much less important than the Olympic Games.
“This (kind of) the top of the pyramid, — said Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Vitaly Mutko, in an interview with state news Agency TASS. — No issues of business interests, income losses, although it is discussing things should not have the opportunity to realize themselves at the Olympics.”