Weekly Russian Hockey News Notes: August 2nd, 2015
It was a bit of a quiet week for news this time around. We are right in that little pocket between the height of the transfer season and the onset of meaningful games, so this will be a short edition of the news notes. However, there were a few things worth talking about, and we’ll start with a new job for a Soviet and Russian hockey legend! Read on…
Probably the biggest news of the week was the election of a familiar figure to the KHL’s Executive Board. Vyacheslav Fetisov, former superstar defenseman in both the Soviet Championship and the NHL, is joining the KHL’s top management group. Fetisov, who was Russia’s Minster of Sport from 2002 to 2008, represents far-eastern Primorsky Krai in the Russian Parliament, and is obviously a big big name in hockey. He ran for the Presidency of the Russian Hockey Federation a year ago, but was handily defeated by his former team-mate Vladislav Tretyak.
What does Fetisov’s election to the Executive Board signify? Well, on the one hand, he is only one member out of 16 on the Board, which includes some very powerful individuals indeed, so it may not mean much. On the other hand, Fetisov has a big voice in the sport, and is not shy about pushing for what he wants. Recently, he has been talking about rules restricting young Russian players from emigrating to the NHL, although nothing of official substance has been done with regards to that. Given Fetisov’s new position with the league, we should expect to hear more about the issue in the coming months.
There are also a couple of new Belarusan faces in the KHL’s upper management. Igor Shunevich, Minister of Internal Affairs for Belarus, joins Fetisov on the Exective Board. And Dinamo Minsk’s acting Director General, Vladimir Berezhkov, will replace Maxim Subbotkin on the league’s Board of Directors. Subbotkin is the former Director General of the Minsk team who was arrested last week on corruption charges.
The other big news of the week was that the 2022 Winter Olympic Games have been awarded to Beijing, China (the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, was the other candidate). This very likely means a higher probability that the KHL will go through with its plans to expand to China, possibly as early as next season. That project has also received some support from the IIHF this week; the world body’s President, Rene Fasel, seems to be firmly behind it (the inclusion of Fetisov, long a supporter of KHL expansion, on the Executive Board will not hurt either).
All parties are acknowledging that a Chinese KHL team would have be stocked with foreign players, at least in its early days, in order to be anywhere near competitive in the league. However, it does look very much like this expansion is going to happen, and it should be fun to watch the process as it goes along!
It was not, as mentioned, a huge week in transfers — most teams have at least the core of their roster set, and are simply looking to patch what holes remain. One player of note who did change teams was veteran Latvian netminder Edgars Masaļskis, who has signed on a try-out basis in Tolyatti with Lada. The 35-year-old, Masaļskis, who has been a member of his country’s national team since 2000, split last season between the KHL’s Dinamo Riga and Ambri-Piotta of the Swiss league, and did not put up terribly exciting numbers (he had an .873 save percentage in 12 games with Dinamo, and .906 in seven games in Switzerland). However, he was superb for Latvia at the Sochi Olympics, so he has some recent high-level play on his resume. For Lada, he will probably compete with Alexei Semyonov for the job of backing up Ivan Kasutin.
Veteran minor-leaguer Stepan Goryachevskikh was let go to make room for Masaļskis.
Speaking of goalies, Slovan Bratislava have hired former NHLer Tom Barrasso to coach theirs. Barrasso, who won two Stanley Cups as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s, has previous KHL goalie-coaching experience with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2012-13. As we’ve discussed here previously, Slovan have a nice goaltending set-up going into the new season, with Canadian veterans Michael Garnett and Barry Brust looking to share the duties.
Elsewhere, exhibition games continued to chug along, as we arrived at the first of the major pre-season tournaments. The Nizhny Novgorod Oblast Governor’s Cup got underway yesterday, featuring Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (obviously) along with Ak Bars Kazan, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Lada Tolyatti, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. Lada currently had the early lead in the standings, after just a couple of games.
Still on the subject of pre-season tournaments, Dynamo Moscow will inaugurate their new home this week, when the Arkady Ivanovich Chernyshev Memorial Tournament begins at the VTB Ice Palace on August 6th. The new arena includes three separate ice surfaces, and will seat 12,100 for KHL hockey. Chernyshev, incidentally, was Dynamo’s first head coach when Soviet hockey began in 1946 (he was actually a player-coach then), a position in which he remained until 1975. He was also Anatoly Tarasov’s associate with the Soviet national team. The Chernyshev Memorial Tournament will involve four teams: the hosts, Spartak Moscow, Dinamo Minsk, and Amur Khabarovsk. The games run from August 6th to 9th, and admission is free.
And that’s about it! As of tomorrow, however, we are only three weeks away from the opening faceoff of the 2015-16 season!