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These Are My Views: It’s Time That the NHL Starts Treating the KHL as a Legitimate Threat

October 21, 2012

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As the NHL lockout drags into its sixth week and an increasing number of players head overseas to keep themselves in game shape for when the NHL returns to business, you cannot help but take notice of something that should be of increasing concern to the NHL and its fans.

That concern revolves around the number of European born players who have returned to their home side of the Atlantic Ocean to play during the lockout who are openly musing about the idea of not coming back to North America to resume their playing careers.

Most notable amongst those threatening to stay in his homeland to play hockey is Alexander Ovechkin who is currently playing for Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

Yesterday Ovechkin went on the record once again to reiterate his rationale about why he may choose to stick around in Russia if the eventual deal between the NHL and NHLPA isn’t to his liking.

The NHL has basically been saying it doesn’t want to honour the terms of existing contracts with its players, something Ovechkin has been extremely critical of.

If he and other big name players such as Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Bryzgalov can play against world-class talent in their home country without encountering the (significant) earning restrictions they do in the NHL because of proposed rollbacks and the already existing salary cap, then why wouldn’t they be considering it for the long-term? 

And if those guys are willing to do it, how long is it until North American born superstars start giving the same idea some serious consideration as well?

What amazes me is the fact that the NHL doesn’t seem to be taking this into consideration at all, completely ignoring what I feel should be an increasingly real threat to their claim of being “the best league in the world”.

Unlike the other major professional sports leagues operating in North America, the NHL actually has a potentially viable competitor for the services of its employees.  It is the players who we as fans pay to watch and buy merchandise of, cards and memorabilia included. 

If those top-talent players aren’t around then neither is the money we would otherwise be spending.  The arrogance of seemingly ignoring that fact is something that I find difficult to understand.

Sure, the KHL isn’t there yet, but I have a feeling that guys choosing to do what Alexander Radulov has done on two separate occasions will be something we see much more regularly after this latest labour situation gets resolved, especially if the players make any major concessions.

As a collector this leaves me wondering how the landscape of the trading card and memorabilia industries might change over the long-term as well. 

Will NHL trading card manufacturers expand their product base to include international leagues?  Will we see the companies that already produce cards for those leagues suddenly become bigger players in the North American market?  Will North American collectors even consider buying non-NHL cards either way?

Let me know your thoughts by getting in touch with a comment, an email at bb_bros@hotmail.com, or on Twitter and Facebook.

Until Wednesday, all the best in your collecting pursuits!

Ryan

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