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KHL seeks games vs. NHL; Vyacheslav Fetisov quits KHL, CSKA; Vityaz’s Mikhail Anisin sings

Dmitry Chesnokov
Puck Daddy

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KHL

It was quite an eventful day in the KHL on Saturday.

The League held its All Star Game in Riga, Latvia this afternoon with Team Fedorov (Eastern Conference) facing Team Ozolinsh (Eastern Conference).

Before the start of the All Star Game, KHL President Alexander Medvedev told Sovetsky Sport that the KHL is working yet again on the possibility of bringing NHL teams to Russia to play pre-season exhibition games.

Medvedev added: "We are planning to hold 5-7 games in August-September 2012. We are in negotiations with team owners. All of the clubs [involved] are of the top level."

(UPDATE: NHL Deputy Commissioner responded to Medvedev's claim by telling the Toronto Star: "Not only have we not discussed it, but it's not going to happen.")

It remains to be seen if this plan comes to fruition. The last time the NHL went to Russia, there were quite a few complaints about the over-aggressiveness of KHL clubs. Just last year Puck Daddy broke a story that the KHL and the NHL couldn't come to an agreement over fees that NHL clubs allegedly requested from the KHL to play exhibition games in Russia.

At the time NHL's Bill Daly didn't want to confirm to me that those were the issues indeed, but added that "there was and remains some concern about scheduling exhibitions between NHL and KHL Clubs because of our experience in St. Petersburg last year. Those concerns alone will not necessarily preclude us from considering the possibility of scheduling games in Russia in the future."

We will certainly have more on this as the story develops.

But the bad news for the League came when KHL's Chairman of the Board Vyacheslav Fetisov announced that he was stepping down from his position with the League and resigning as the President of his alma mater CSKA.

"This whole situation is sickening to me. I don't want to be a part of what is going on with the club. I don't see the point of staying at CSKA."

It's unclear what prompted Fetisov to step down from the KHL, but he has long been involved in a power struggle with the new owners of CSKA that led to his resignation from the club. The renowned Red Army club was on the verge of perishing due to financial difficulties, just like another pillar of Russian hockey Dynamo Moscow crumbled.

Legendary CSKA coach Viktor Tikhonov even appealed to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to save the club. Putin listened and Russian oil company Rosneft became the club owner. But they also wanted to call all of the shots including player personnel decisions. That was the reason Nikita Filatov couldn't sign with CSKA for some time after leaving to the KHL on loan from the Ottawa Senators. And Fetisov didn't want to be a part of the club policies any longer.

"[Sergei] Nemchinov [CSKA GM] is a weak coach, a weak manager, a weak person.  I am sure he doesn't have any future," Fetisov told Sport.ru.

Fetisov also said, regarding this KHL chairmanship: "I did everything I was supposed to do.  I removed Steblin [former head of the Russian Hockey Federation], I made [the national team] the World Champions, the League [the KHL] was advanced at the orders of Putin, the junior league was started.  A mission can only be justified by influencing the situation…  The title of the Chairman of the Board of the KHL doesn't decide anything.  The League in reality is run by Medvedev. But we have a good relationship.  We just had a few disagreements on a few matters…"

The All Star Game itself ended with Team Fedorov beating Team Ozolonsh 15-11. It was also memorable for the "world record" hardest shot and St Louis Blues' prospect Vladimir Tarasenko's trick shot.

KHL skills competition highlights:

But it will probably be remembered by the a capella performance of "O sole mio" by Mikhail Anisin of Vityaz Chekhov.

Who knew that the goon squad has a softer side?

"I visited La Scala [Teatro alla Scala] in Milan when I was a kid and I listened to Luciano Pavarotti's aria live." Anisin told Sovetsky Sport after the game. "And at the skills competition I remembered Luciano and decided to perform 'O Sole Mio' that he sang that day."

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