Category Archives: Uncategorized

Jokerit Helsinki in 2018-19

2017-18 featured a blistering start for Jokerit, and although they faded down the stretch, the team from Finland’s capital finished up in the league’s top five for the third time in its four KHL seasons.  And though Jokerit failed to get past the second round of the playoffs, they did give eventual finalists CSKA Moscow a pretty good fight before succumbing.  That second-half stumble raised some eyebrows, but overall the results must be deemed satisfactory.  Oh, and Jokerit also introduced a jaw-dropping young forward to the hockey world along the way!  So what’s in store for this season, and can Jokerit make a real run for the Gagarin Cup?  Read on…

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Мы будем помнить.

Salavat Yulaev Ufa in 2018-19

Salavat Yulaev Ufa always seem to enter the season with a solidly-stocked roster full of skilled and entertaining players, set at least to contend to add a second Gagarin Cup to the one they picked up in 2010-11.  But something always seems to go wrong.  Last season, an astute-looking coaching hire in experienced Finn Erkka Westerlund did not work out as planned at all (an early bad sign was the falling-out between team captain Denis Kulyash and the coach, which led to Kulyash’s departure), among other things.  In the end, Salavat Yulaev won the Chernyshev Division, and got two rounds into the playoffs — but that was only thanks to a tremendous late run (and a weak division), and they nearly missed the post-season altogether.  Will the team from the capital of Bashkortostan break through in 2018-19, or is more disappointment in store?  Read on…

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To the Last Eight in the MHL

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Reaktor Nizhnekamsk’s Bulat Shafigullin (in blue) works against the Stalny Lisy Magnitogorsk defence during the first round of the MHL playoffs.  Shafigullin would be a key figure in a huge upset!  (Image Source)

A week or so ago we looked at the then-impending first round of the playoffs in the MHL — Russia’s top-tier men’s junior league.  Well, that round is now complete, as the series were all best-of-five, and we have the pairings for the last eight.  Read on, for a quick recap of the opening series with some discussion of key performers, and of course a look at those upcoming match-ups in the second round.

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Please Stand By

Due to some WiFi issues, the update of Wednesday’s Olympic hockey action will need to wait until tomorrow.  If the wires are not too crossed still, we will discuss the Russian men’s 6-1 quarterfinal victory over Norway, and the women’s 3-2 loss to Finland in the bronze medal game.  Apologies for the delay!

Update!  Home internet issues are now resolved, and we will be back with a post tomorrow, before the gold medal game of the men’s tournament between Russia and Germany(!).  Sunday will wrap up the Olympic tournaments, both of them, and next week will involve updates on the domestic women’s hockey activity during the break for the Games, and a look ahead to the KHL playoffs.

Olympic Update: February 15th, 2018

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Russian captain Olga Sosina is watched closely by Tanja Niskanen of Finland during their Group A game on Friday.  (Image Source)

The group stage is now finished for the Russian women’s national team at these 2018 Olympics, and they are likely glad to see the back of it.  The Russian side came into today’s game against Finland with a record of 0-2, forgivable since the opposition had been the two North American giants.  Of greater concern was the fact that the team had been shut out in both matches.  Well, the Russian players did finally get on the board against the Finns, but the final result must again go down as a disappointment.  Read on…

 

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Women’s Hockey Update: February 7th, 2018

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Forward Anna Shokhina lights a candle in the Transfiguration Cathedral in Khabarovsk, shortly before she and the rest of the Russian women’s national team departed for the Olympics in South Korea.  (Image Source)

The opening of the Olympic women’s hockey tournament is just a few days away now, and the Russian team itself has arrived at the athletes’ village and is settling into the Games routine.  Read on, therefore, for a quick update on their doings (with more to come later this week), plus some news from the domestic Russian women’s hockey scene!

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Scheduling Note

The usual Monday women’s hockey update will be along on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, as I’m waiting on the resolution of a couple of newsworthy items.  In the meantime, do check out the interview with Agidel Ufa and Russian national team forward Olga Sosina!

Quotes and Views

So where do we stand today, after Tuesday’s IOC announcement that Russian athletes can compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics only under the neutral flag?  On Wednesday, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin rejected the idea of a Russian boycott of the Games, although a final decision will be made by the athletes on December 12th.  In the meantime, we still await comment from the IIHF on the matter (beyond the quote included below), and we also do not yet have any official statement from the Russian Hockey Federation.  Nor do we know for sure what the KHL’s next move will be.

However, a number of people associated with Russian hockey have spoken up, and I have selected a few of the more representative and interesting quotes (I will probably add more as they come along).  Read on (and tomorrow, barring any thunderous news, we go back to talking about actual hockey)…

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Verdict (Updated)

The International Olympic Committee handed down its decision this afternoon on Russia’s participation in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, following allegations of doping at the 2014 Games.  The verdict, briefly: Russian athletes may participate, but only under a neutral flag and anthem (the will be officially known as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”).

So what now?  And particularly, “what now” for the hockey side of things, which is after all the focus of this blog.  Well, we have far more questions than answers at the moment, all of them variations on the theme of “what happens now?” and here are a few of them (answers will be provided as I get them):

Will Russia participate in the Games at all?  That we may find out tomorrow. (h/t to Tomáš Vorčák  There will be considerable pressure to boycott the games entirely, so we will see which way things go.  If we don’t have get a definitive word tomorrow, then December 12th (next Tuesday) appears to be the day Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov also mentioned the possibility that the Russian team could have its “neutral” status removed by the end of the Pyeongchang competition, and could close the Games under its own flag (see preceding link), which could serve as an inducement to attend — once again, we will see.

Update: Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday:

Without any doubt, we will not declare any blockade, we will not prevent our Olympians from taking part.”

Will the KHL release its players for the Games?  That will apparently be decided at a KHL Board of Directors meeting next week (h/t to Tomáš Vorčák).  If Russia does decide to take part in the Olympics under the neutral flag, there should, and I say “should,” be no problem here.  If, however, Russia decides on a boycott, things get more complicated.  With NHL players sitting these Games out, it is not just the Russian team that will be looking to the KHL for its top players.  Were the league to refuse to release its foreign players to their respective national teams (and the Russian State Duma recently proposed a law allowing them to do just that), it could cause some problems with the International Ice Hockey Federation.  Which brings us to…

How will the IIHF respond to today’s decision?  Almost alone among the individual international sports federations, the IIHF has been staunch and vociferous (and correct, in my opinion) in its opposition to any collective punishment, and in its support for Russian athletes’ right to attend the Games and to do so under their own flag (a number of national  hockey federations, have voiced similar support).  That battle has been only half won, after today’s IOC decision, and it will be very interesting to see what the IIHF has to say.  Update: it looks like we get an answer in the day or two:

Other questions as they occur to me, and answers as I get them