Russian hockey did not catch up with NHL

Why the Continental Hockey League holds the jubilee season for the rest.
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The Continental Hockey League (KHL) was created almost 10 years ago, and immediately began to position itself as a competitor of the National Hockey League (NHL). The task is set clear: if you do not catch up and overtake America, then "sit on her wheel". It was done a lot: new comfortable hockey palaces were opened, teams from Europe joined the league, a system of mutual respect for contracts was built with the NHL, and real star masters moved from the North American clubs to the KHL. However, in 2015-2017, there was a sharp regression: our championship left two dozen stars, there are no new stars, and the inclusion of the Chinese club in the KHL is just another embarrassment and can not be called. By the jubilee, the league fits in decline.

Revival and ambition

2008 year. In the Russian hockey era came a revival: for the first time in 15 years, won the World Cup, and even in the finals, Canadian players were beaten in Canada. In the bowels of Gazprom there is a super-ambitious idea - to create your hockey league in NHL patterns. The league is necessarily international, which will unite all standing teams of the post-Soviet space, and in the future will enter the European and Asian markets. In March 2008, the working title appeared - the Open Russian Hockey League. Two important nuances of the new project were immediately indicated: the league itself gets the rights to conduct the competition, and not the Russian hockey federation, in addition, the league will be closed, that is, no one will "fly" out of it on a sporting principle.

March 21 from the lips of the future chairman of Alexander Medvedev, the official name of the new tournament - Continental Hockey League. For the first time in the national hockey teams were broken up following the example of the NHL into divisions that received the names of the legends of Soviet hockey: Anatoly Tarasov, Arkady Chernyshev, Vsevolod Bobrov and Valery Kharlamov. The number of participants in the tournament was also decided in the spring - 24. For the first time since 1996, old iconic ones have returned to our hockey - Dynamo (Riga), Dynamo (Minsk), and Kazakhstan's Barys from Astana. Also, following the example of the NHL, where the main prize is named in honor of Governor-General of Canada Lord Stanley, our Cup also became a personal one - Gagarin. The first in the history of the KHL on September 2 played in Khabarovsk "Cupid" and Riga "Dynamo".

Jaromir Jagr arrived!

Even before the first match in the KHL, as mentioned earlier, there was a landmark event. The KHL and the NHL agreed on mutual respect for contracts. The fact is that until 2008 North Americans did not recognize our contracts, which, for example, resulted in the escape of Evgeni Malkin from Magnitogorsk Metallurg for the ocean. And we did not recognize written relations with the employers of hockey players who played there, which is a striking example - the scandalous return to the homeland of Alexander Radulov.

And very soon the KHL won the first image victory over the NHL: superstar of the world hockey Jaromir Jagr passed to the Omsk "Vanguard" from the NHL. Then he said the motivational: "Winning the Gagarin Cup will soon be more prestigious than the Stanley Cup." Now those feelings look naive, but then for some reason even believed! So very famously took the leaders of the KHL for the cause.

Another important point of the new hockey policy was the care of viewers. The clubs were obliged to have palaces no less than 5000 people, giving some a trial period, which had to be used to build a new arena. For example, Togliatti "Lada", one of the flagships of our hockey in the 1990's, did not meet the deadline and was excluded from the KHL (how to build the palace, and returned to the KHL).

Kovalchuk is back!

What else has the KHL achieved over the years? Due to the "northern premium" in our league went the best European and North American players who could not make their way to the NHL. Let's name a few who became KHL stars: Tony Mortensson (Sweden), Mikko Koskinen, Nico Kapanen (Finland), Chris Lee,
Kevin Dallman, Brandon Bochenski (Canada), Zdeno Hara (Slovakia), Patrick Toresen (Norway), Jan Kovarj, Roman Cervenka, Jan Marek (Czech Republic).

From the NHL in the KHL also moved to Russia's veterans, who preferred to end their homeland. Among them are the stars of the world hockey: Sergei Zubov, Sergei Fedorov, Sergei Brylin, Alexei Zhitnik, Danila Markov, Andrei Markov, Alexei Yashin, Pavel Datsyuk. Young Russian players who could not immediately start to play in the NHL ceased to linger in North American farm clubs, and at the first opportunity they immediately tore their claws home: Viktor Tikhonov, Nikita Filatov, Valery Nichushkin, Sergey Kalinin. Finally, the main victory of the KHL over the NHL happened in the summer of 2013. Unbelievable, but in Russia came back the striker in the prime of life - 30-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk.

The leaders of the KHL did not hide that the hockey player needed as a person of the league, and as a leader of the Russian national team at the Sochi Olympics. In addition to personalities, the KHL managed to get into the TV. Hockey tightly began to broadcast the channel "Russia-2", their teams widely covered regional TV channels, finally emerged
KHL-TV, which immediately began to broadcast in HD-format. The attendance of games grew also - about 5 thousand on average, which was inferior to Switzerland and Germany, but for Russia it was excellent figures.

In addition, the KHL grew into clubs. In the league appeared "Leo" (Prague, Czech Republic), Medvezhchak (Zagreb, Croatia), "Slovan" (Bratislava, Slovakia). The real sensation was the appearance of "Yokerita" (Helsinki, Finland), which appeared in the KHL in the season 2014/15. This is one of the strongest clubs of the Old World with a huge army of fans. Finally, from last year in the KHL stands a club from China - Kunlun (Beijing). The KHL seemed to be in fact trying to justify its eurasism, but many hockey fans now regretfully state: the league retreated in 2008, and maybe even further. What's happening? And why?

The stars have left

We must understand that the KHL is not separable from the Russian economy. Its guarantor is Gazprom, which lately suffers losses. As soon as after all the famous events of 2014 the ruble fell, sanction came into play, it became not fat and the majority of hockey clubs. Salaries in the KHL are not tied to the dollar rate - this was the principled position of the leadership of the league. Accordingly, the salaries of players collapsed. Our tournament lost its attractiveness to North American in the form of low taxes. And slowly, slowly, the hockey players soaped the skis back to the NHL. They can be understood: if the salary becomes no more in Russia than there, then why live in Magnitogorsk or Nizhnekamsk, when it is possible in Miami or New York? Of course, the Europeans understood this more quickly, but then the Russians, the players of the national team, also pulled themselves into the NHL.

Over the past two years, moved over the ocean: Artemiy Panarin, Nikita Zaitsev, Yevgeny Dadonov, Vadim Shipachev (he had to return), Alexei Bereglazov,
Victor Antipin, Alexander Radulov, Pavel Buchnevich and others. Catastrophe, because it is the elite of domestic hockey. The tournament sharply "lost weight" in terms of stardom, which did not slow to affect the attendance and interest in television.

And then the Olympics in Korea arrived, which the Russian team will still go, but under a neutral flag. For the sake of "gold" in Korea, in fact, two base clubs for the national team were created at the state level - SKA (sponsored by Gazprom) and CSKA (sponsored by Rosneft). Most recently, the Moscow stage of the Euro Tour took place and 23 people out of 24 representing army clubs performed in the national team. This was not even in Soviet times, when Viktor Tikhonov was making from CSKA a base club for the national team.

"MatchTV" avoids hockey

It seems that the Russian hockey has come full "militarization" - SKA and CSKA collected the best, and literally smear all other rivals on the sides. In other words, what intrigue in the tournament, if it is clear who wins. Some publications believe that because of this the KHL was simply merged. The spectators are already voting with their feet - they just do not go for hockey. This they do not need. China did not help either. On the contrary, "Kunlun" from the most populous country in the world is the least visited team in our league. And the average attendance in the KHL has decreased to 4 thousand fans. For comparison, in the NHL average attendance - 14 thousand spectators.

Due to financial problems, just two years ago the very visited Prague "Leo" was closed. This club even reached the Gagarin Cup final. In summer Zagreb "Medvezhchak" was covered "with the same problem". In frankincense, the Slovenian "Slovan" breathes. Most likely, he too will no longer be in the KHL, starting next season. Before the beginning of this season, "for poverty" was excluded Novokuznetsk "Metallurg", which gave our hockey the best goalkeeper at the moment - Sergei Bobrovsky. They suffer a miserable existence due to debts of Lada, Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod), Spartak, Siberia.

Meanwhile, there is still a bloated market of hockey players' salaries, which, moreover, according to the Russian tradition, is not open. Due to the fact that in the KHL, at the urging of the Russian Hockey Federation, there is a limit on foreign hockey players (no more than five in the application for a match), Russian players claim unreasonably high salaries. The average Russian hockey player on average gets about 60 million rubles a year - unthinkable prices for the services of an employee for "simple" Russia. These guys are already extremely difficult to add to the skill, but they are always in demand in conditions of an artificial limit on foreign players.

Meanwhile, many fans see a link between the fall in sports and commercial league results with the replacement in 2014 of President Alexander Medvedev by a new one - Dmitry Chernyshenko.

Although in theory he was just supposed to promote hockey, since he has extensive experience in advertising and marketing, is headed by the extremely successful Gazprom-Media. Chernyshenko himself partly admits: the ratings of the KHL are falling, and as for the usurpation of the championship SKA and CSKA, assures us that this season is special in the KHL because of the Olympics, and this will not happen again. However, who said that if Medvedev did not leave his post in the league, it would be better?

That the KHL holds its 10th season for the rest, can be seen also on the preferences of the specialized sports channel "MatchTV" - hockey is shown on big holidays. The management of the channel refers to the ratings - the KHL has become of little interest to anyone. And so everything started well ...