March 23, 2011
The talk about the NHL opening the 2011-2012 season in Russia has been going on for some time.
A few months ago, KHL President Alexander Medvedev announced that it was a certainty that the Washington Capitals would be one of the teams visiting Russia in the fall, with the New York Rangers in the mix as well.
Today, it appears that the deal is dead.
KHL President Alexander Medvedev told Russia Today TV Channel:
"It looks like that we will not see such matches next season. And we have only one reason that the NHL due to their, sort of say, exclusively business-like approach…"
Months worth of discussions proved futile. At one point the optimism was so high that a New York Rangers representative traveled to Russia to discuss the plans.
Puck Daddy's sources inside the KHL confirmed that the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers were the only two teams the KHL wanted to invite to Russia. The plan was to have the two NHL teams to play exhibition games against KHL clubs, and then open the NHL season with two games — one in Moscow and another one in St. Petersburg.
According to those sources, Medvedev and his deputy Ilya Kochevrin met with the NHL in New York last month to try to salvage the deal. They also met with the New York Rangers to discuss the details. After that meeting Medvedev and Kochevrin were planning to meet with the Washington Capitals. But that didn't progress.
KHL sources said the reason there will be no NHL teams in Russia this season was the League's revenue guarantee request. We were told the NHL asked for a guarantee of $2-$3 million for the trip to happen. The KHL saw it as unreasonable because of simple economics — the Russian league would not be able to break even due to Russian hockey economic streams.
We reached NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly for comment on the revenue guarantee, who said:
"I am not prepared to disclose the substance of our discussions, but I will confirm that the discussions did not result in an agreement to bring NHL teams to Russia for next year."
Tickets to regular season KHL games range on average from $5 to $50. In order to break even, KHL teams would have to charge a lot more for games against NHL clubs.
Two years ago when the NHL hosted the NHL Premiere in Helsinki, it was reported that the cost was at least a million euro, and in addition, the NHL wanted up to 30 percent of the ticket revenues.
"A million euro is [B.S.] It's way more than that. That's not even close. That wouldn't even cover travel. But we can get a million if we sell out the arena," Harry Harkimo, chairman of Helsinki Jokerit, said at the time.
(Thanks to Risto Pakarinen for translation help)
But there may be other reasons for the KHL to be concerned. This is what Bill Daly told us today:
"I will also confirm 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."