September 02, 2008
Look, we try to avoid controversy here at all costs, but this is the bottom line: You are out of your damn mind if you think Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk has a shot in hell of winning the Chernyshev.
Are they Ak Bars Kazan? Are they Dinamo? Hell no. The fact is that Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk is like Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod minus the Yuri Butsayev. That's as plain as the goalie stick on Khimik Voskresensk's logo.
Rejoice, for the KHL regular season has finally arrived, proving once and for all that this new Russian league is good for something other than protracted Cold War-era stare-downs with the NHL over the contracts of relatively insignificant players (Alexander Radulov and Nikita Filatov excluded ... oh, and check out the end of this post from Alex Ovetjkin. Be afraid, Atlanta Thrashers fans hoping to keep Ilya Kovalchuk. Be very afraid).
Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times' Slap Shot blog has a good KHL preview that gives a brief history of each team and notes their significant players. Having just gone through a month of the Summer Olympics, we know that with minimal information and slight personal connection, we can still become emotionally invested in some random international athletic team. So with this KHL preview in mind, we ask you, NHL puckheads: Who will be your official KHL rooting interest in the inaugural season?
This selection might say a lot about your hockey fanaticism. Are you going to be some lousy frontrunner and hitch your wagon to reigning European champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk or Jaromir Jagr's Avangard Omsk? Will you back Amur Khabarovsk, a crappy team that still always manages to sell out its home games; and if so, are you also a Leafs fan?
We imagine many NHL fans will end up following (in an extraordinarily casual way) teams with former North American players on them. That's why we were sort of torn between Dinamo Minsk, managed by former Los Angeles Kings playmaker Vladimir Tsyplakov and featuring the unparalleled talents of defenseman Igor Ulanov; and Atlant Mytishchi, home not only to our favorite goalie Ray Emery but to the offensive juggernaut know as Jan Bulis.
In the end, Puck Daddy must throw its support behind Traktor Chelyabinsk, the KHL team coached by former San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes goon Andrei Nazarov. Not just because they employ the wondrous Andrei Nikolishin, but because Nazarov's team helped give the world this brawl last season: