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© RIA Novosti. Vitaliy Belousov

Russian stars taking refuge in the KHL during NHL lockout

by at 17/09/2012 18:36


Russian NHL players flocked home after the North American league’s season was left in jeopardy when a lockout was announced on Sunday.

The players and the clubs failed to reach a new agreement, and the start of the NHL hockey season was postponed indefinitely, and possibly cancelled.

KHL, in turn, amended its rules, allowing clubs to sign three NHL players, including one foreigner. The players will have an opt-out clause in their contract in case the NHL season is resumed.

Russian stars come home

Star center Yevgeni Malkin was the first to sign a contract. The Pittsburgh Penguins forward will now return to his native city and play for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. The world champion will be joined by Ottawa Senators defenceman Sergei Gonchar and possibly Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulyomin.

Ilya Kovalchuk, twice world champion with Russia, will join SKA St. Petersburg and will be presented as a new player on Tuesday, the club announced on its website. Last season's Stanley Cup finalist with New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk played for Ak Bars Kazan and Khimik Moscow Region when NHL’s 2004/05 season was cancelled.

Alexander Ovechkin was set to sign a contract with his boyhood club Dinamo Moscow on Monday, while Alexander Syomin is expected to join Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

Gift to Russian hockey

Head of Russia’s Hockey Federation, legendary goaltender Vladislav Tretiak thanked the lockout for a chance for Russia coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov to get a closer look at the best Russian players ahead of the Sochi Olympics 2014.

‘The lockout is an extraordinary event, even though it is not the first time,” Bilyaletdinov told Sovietsky Sport. “Now it is in a way useful for our players, who can display their skills at home, bring joy to the fans. The guys that will come back will raise the level of our championship. Russia coaching staff, in turn, will look more closely and will talk to them.”

However, he added that the stars might not be used in the Eurotour stages, as those who need to gain more experience might be “given opportunity to grow” instead.

However, not all teams plan to invite NHL stars for short playing stints in Russia. Ak Bars Kazan, for example, stated that they did not plan to sign any contracts at the moment because of a lack of clarity on how long the strike will last.

The lockout

The clubs and players tried to reach an agreement since early 2012, but a few days before the Sept. 15 deadline it became clear that a lockout was unavoidable. The last agreement was reached in 2005, after a season was cancelled when no agreement was made. The league wanted the players’ share in the profits to fall from 57 percent to 49 percent initially, and finally to 47 percent. The players were ready to cut their share, but only to 54.3 percent, to then lower it to 52.4 percent. The players would lose $10 billion.

This would be the third lockout in 18 years: 2004/05 season was cancelled completely and 1994/95 season was cut.


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