This assist by Evgeny Kuznetsov, leading to a Jan Bulis power-play goal in a 4-1 Traktor win over Salavat in the KHL on Monday, looks like something out of a video game.
First, because Kuznetsov appears to be moving roughly 10-times faster than his opponents. Second, because this is the kind of pass that the computer auto-completes for you from behind the net. (If the video doesn't jump there, head to the 3:45 mark of the clip or click here.)
Of course, it does help when the defense has the A.I. of an "NHL '94" computer opponent. Really sterling work there by Vitaly Atyushov, getting deked out of his skates, and the rest of the Salavat penalty killers for closing off the crease to Jan Bulis of all people.
One more bit about the KHL: The Toronto Sun has a piece about Canadian TV networks sniffing around the League for content during the NHL lockout.
Take this with a grain of salt, but German-based UFA Sports Agency, which represents the KHL's marketing arm outside Eastern Europe, is reportedly hearing from those North American broadcasters facing a huge hole in their hockey programming. KHL teams that would catch the fancy of fans here include Metallurg Magnitogorsk and Dynamo Moscow, home of Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin, respectively.
(An aside: "Take this with a gain of salt, but..." in a newspaper?)
Western European countries with a smaller appetite for hockey could also be wooed. But Sportsnet commentator John Shannon, a former HNIC producer, wonders how quickly the KHL novelty would wear off on these shores.
"I think there's a curiosity, but just a curiosity," Shannon said. "I don't think it will turn people's cranks. Those two KHL games planned at (Brooklyn's) Barclay's Center might have cachet (in January), but there's an old adage that sport is tribal. People watch the Leafs because they're the Leafs. I'm not sure how many Magnitogorsk fans there are. Long term, I don't think the KHL or any other league is going to change habits."
Would the KHL on Canadian television suddenly turn people off to the NHL? Of course not. But it would draw ratings. The interest in this League is intense right now for North American hockey fans. They're seeking out news, seeking out highlights. A hockey-starved populace in Canada would watch the KHL.
Question is: Which Canadian network would have the balls to put the KHL and its locked-out NHL stars on the air, with TV rights in Canada due for negotiation in a few years?
Mr. Bettman never forgets …
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