Medvedev’s KHL vision

On the 13th June 2012, KHL President Alexander Medvedev outlined the plans for the future of his organisation and his focus of what European hockey should look like.

The KHL was established in 2008 featuring teams from four countries: Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan. In 2012-13, there will be teams from seven countries including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. Starting next year the KHL will have a salary cap of $36 million.

Medvedev sees the KHL’s expansion to consume all of Europe, with one KHL Conference in and around Russia and a European Conference with a Scandinavian Sub-Conference (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway) and a Central European Sub-Conference (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, France, Italy, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium).

In all, 64 teams in two conferences of 32 teams. The league would have a regular season of 62 games (38 games inside the conferences, 24 between conferences in two to four road trips to the other conference for each team) and a playoffs of five rounds featuring 32 teams starting within the sub-conferences.

Medvedev wants this league to be operational by 2013/2014 – or as a second-best option 2014/2015.

“To create a top-notch international competition is necessary,” Medvedev concluded. “We need to create a pan-European system for the talent in Europe and set up a super-competition between the winners of the Stanley Cup and Europe to define the best team in the world.”

Medvedev explained that the new league should be a closed system. “The stakeholders, those who put money in should decide about the structure,” he said. “It should be a closed system to have long-term planning and teams can’t be sent off to lose credibility and money.”

He clarified that national leagues can still exist without the top clubs and the remaining clubs can act as farm teams.

From the money point of view he unveiled that top clubs in the KHL have a budget of approximately €50 million (including staff, junior teams), but to compete it’s enough to have a budget of €15 million according to Medvedev, which is still twice as much as the numbers Kalervo Kummola presented from the Finnish top league.

“I believe there’s no direct correlation between the budget and the sportive result,” Medvedev replied. “There have been many examples in the past years in the KHL. Clubs with a lower budget compete like hell on the ice.”

You can find more detail of this meeting and these plans here:
http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/news/newssingleview/recap/7042.html?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=955&cHash=56629ca89d

I guess you have to hand it to Medvedev, I mean the guy has vision.
However I have many reservations and question marks about his master plan.

A jump from 26 to 64 teams? When you put it in black and white, it sounds even more crazy.
Even if he was able to establish all these new team then the timescale just doesn‘t work, for next season or even 2014/2015. Organisation and promotion of this new fangled KHL league would surely be compromised in an effort to rush this through. Surely a smaller expansion would be of benefit into countries where hockey is consider a top sport. Perhaps to 30 teams like the NHL, would be a smarter immediate plan of action.

Great Britain were mentioned as where Medvedev wanted to have a possible franchise so let’s take a look at that.
In the British Elite League last year the average attendance was only 2,028, around a third of the KHL average last season. (attendance stats in this article are correct up until 15th March 2012)
The best attended team in the Elite League, the Nottingham Panthers, averaged 4,694, just 63rd best in Europe and still down 1500 on the KHL average.

I am guessing he would plan to put a franchise in London being the capital city. Most Elite teams are based around midlands and the north. Would there be an appetite for hockey in the city with so much competition from other sports?

I know that Sky Sports serve the British Elite League but let’s be honest in the fact that hockey receives little to non-existent media coverage in Great Britain. You are lucky to see NHL scores on the Sky Sports News ticker tape screen let alone anything approaching news, so why would anyone be interested in a new franchise?
How can he think that Great Britain can sustain a KHL franchise when hockey here in general can barely stand on it’s own two feet.

His comments suggesting that a KHL franchise would not harm hockey already based in countries is at best disrespectful.
His other suggestion that those teams should serve as a feeder to a KHL team would not be well received I imagine.
Teams have identities and they would be loath to lose their best players they have nurtured or imported to a franchise, especially if no or minimal compensation were forthcoming.

I understand why he would want this to be a closed system. However the NHL isn’t run this way for a reason and what happens if you end up with struggling franchises like Phoenix in the UK?

I think there are countries where some exciting teams would love to join. One that springs to mind is Medvescak Zagreb from Croatia.
12th in Europe for average attendance last season with almost 9,000 fans and they are on a real upward curve in general.
Wouldn’t an existing team like Medvescak Zagreb, be a better proposition for the KHL to expand their league?

I like Medvedev’s ambition to improve hockey in Europe but to me this plan borders on the insane in scale and idea.
It’ll be interesting to see what develops in the near future.

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