Clarity on the Dynamo Moscow Situation?
Today was a day of big news in Russian hockey, on a couple of different fronts. We’ll get the bad tidings out of the way first — the Dynamo Moscow situation has reached something (more) of a crisis point, and there were major developments in that affair today. Read on…
When last we looked at the mess at famous old club Dynamo Moscow, the focus was on a seeming struggle for power between the VFSO (the all-sports society that was in nominal control of the hockey team) and the leadership that had arrived on the scene as part of Dynamo’s 2012 merger with HK MVD. It was alleged by a number of Dynamo veterans that the VFSO was attempting to bankrupt the team in order to rid itself of the MVD personnel (namely General Director Andrei Safronov and Board of Trustees Chairman Rashid Nurgaliyev), and that this manoeuvre was what lay behind Dynamo’s decent into debt to the tune of nearly two billion rubles (about $43,000,000 Canadian).
Nothing that has happened since has argued against that particular scenario. The VFSO duly supplied paperwork for Dynamo’s 2017-18 KHL membership, but it was for a newly-created Dynamo team, thus neatly cutting the old leadership out of the picture (for a more complete look at the complicated background to all this, I once again refer you to the previous post on the matter at this blog). And having created a new Dynamo team, the VFSO further argued that this organization was not responsible for the massive debt incurred by the old. Understandly, this infuriated the Dynamo players, to whom about a third of that debt is owed. At an extraordinary press conference called by the players on June 17th, team captain Alexei Tereshchenko described the situation at the club as “catastrophic.”
Whatever the intentions of the VFSO, today the other shoe dropped, at a meeting of the KHL’s Disciplinary Board (this body oversees “breach of contract” complaints as well as on-ice nefariousness). The league essentially ruled that if the debt of the old team does not belong to the new, then neither do the players’ contracts. As a result, 42 Dynamo players were named unrestricted free agents, including any number of big names from both the KHL team and its now-defunct VHL farm squad Dynamo Balashikha. Those 42 players were only those who had themselves appealed officially to the Disciplinary Board, but it was subsequently announced that every single contract with the “old” Dynamo will be declared null and void (that team essentially ceases to exist), and that the players involved will be free to sign with any team in any league.
So now what? Well, Dynamo Moscow (the new) began its 2017-18 preparations this week, but technically at this point has almost no players under contract. However, a number of the newly-declared free agents are expected to turn up for team medicals on July 6th, and so the new Dynamo appears likely to be able re-sign some key members of the old (hat-tips to Tomáš Vorčák and Aivis Kalniņš). The key question will be, of course: which ones? The answer to that is something we will confront here when we get to Dynamo’s 2017-18 preview, assuming that nothing too dramatic happens in the meantime (see below).
For fans of the farm team, however, the news has not been good: Dynamo Balashikha, defending champions of the VHL, have “no intention” of applying for continued membership in Russia’s second-highest men’s professional league. Where the new Dynamo Moscow KHL team locates its reserve players remains to be seen, although one possibility is Dynamo St. Petersburg. That club, which is also under the control of the VFSO, already has a VHL squad (along with teams in the Women’s Hockey League and in the junior men’s MHL), and thus would seem a likely candidate. However, that is pure speculation on my part at this point. In any case, the loss of Dynamo Balashikha may turn out to be one of the worst aspects of this whole débâcle — whatever its sins, the Dynamo club as a whole has been a tremendous developer of hockey talent down the years, and that is something that must be preserved.
The best-case scenario, certainly but not only from the KHL’s point of view, will be one in which the casual fan notices little difference: the new Dynamo Moscow continue on in the KHL with mostly the same lineup as the old, blue and white sweaters emblazoned with the famous “D,” and the transition between old and new teams remains something significant only on paper (this happy outcome assumes that Dynamo’s hockey development structure is also preserved in some way). There does not seem to be, at this point, any further talk of a merger between Dynamo and Vityaz Moscow Oblast (see the above-linked previous post here).
The worst-case outcome is that the new Dynamo finds itself without players just as training camp begins. That could mean a withdrawal from the KHL — indeed, the league’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Gennady Timchenko, cited that very possibility as a reason why we do not yet have a 2017-18 KHL schedule. We will know more on Thursday, July 6th, when the above-mentioned medicals are scheduled to occur. We shall see how many players, and which ones, turn out for that, and we will certainly keep you posted on any significant developments.
Tomorrow we will turn our attention here to the good side of Tuesday’s developments, which involved some exciting news about new hockey collaboration between Russia and China. Then on Thursday we will have an update on the women’s hockey scene, as on-ice preparations for the 2017-18 season get underway. Thank you for reading!