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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Some talk of NHL - IIHF series

The least we can do is wave to each other

The IIHF and the NHL have reached a "fundamental agreement" about an annual play-off between the winner of the Stanley Cup and the winner of the European Champions Cup, according to a report on the web site of the Finnish hockey team, Karpat.

Karpat is the Finnish participant in the second European Champions Cup, taking place in St. Petersburg, Russia, January 5-8, 2006.

The report quotes Szymon Szemberg, the press agent for the Int'l Ice Hockey Federation, as saying to Finnish journalists, "It is difficult to say specifically when this match will take place, but it is already assured that the idea of conducting a yearly match between the championship teams of two continents is a close as ever to being realized."

The idea of an NHL - IIHF playoff has been tossed around before, being met with understandable skepticism (as in this article from three years ago), but obviously the situation is different now. The mass of NHL players who went over to Europe during the lockout last year removed some of the barriers of understanding between North American and European hockey fans, while the NHL's desire to market the league in new ways after the end of the lockout will provide some impetus for an NHL/European playoff also.

Molot Perm vs. Central Army, Russian Super League

I have yet to find any reaction in the North American media to this admittedly low-level announcement, possibly hinting at a continued Canadian/American disinterest in the idea. Additionally, an article in Sport Express over in Russia expresses some legitimate concerns about such a playoff. For instance, if Dynamo Moscow were to win the European Champions Cup and become the European representative in the proposed series, would they be allowed to play, considering that Russia didn't ratify the NHL - IIHF transfer agreement? Also, this wouldn't be like the Olympics, when each country gets to compete with all of their best players on hand. Asking a European team to represent its homeland against an NHL team that could have some of its own countrymen on its roster seems like an innacurate matchup to me. One could also wonder how the European players in the NHL would feel if they had to square off in a challenge match against their former club from their home country.

UPDATE 10/23/05 -10/23/05
This quote in Sport Express today, from IIHF President Rene Fasel, confirms that an NHL - IIHL playoff is being discussed:

"I can confirm at this time that work on organizing a match between the winner of the European Champions Cup and the winner of the Stanley Cup is moving forward. As it is known, this idea is not new, and has come up repeatedly. But now the situation in the world of hockey has changed, and it is easy to see the possibilities of conducting a match like this. In November there is a meeting planned between me and commissioner Gary Bettman, and this proposal will be on the agenda."

2 Comments:

Anonymous pricklypear said...

Hmmm. I assume the NHL players would demand to be payed for an NHL-IIHF match. Unless, of course, Bettman expects that they'll do it all in the spirit of fun.

I'd actually enjoy the match, though I see your point about the possibility of playing against a team in one's homeland.

I mean, it wouldn't really mean anything to play and win, right? How can anyone take it seriously?

10/24/05, 11:01 AM

 
Blogger Brushback said...

There are a bunch of questions just like those, concerning the proposed playoff (and not that I wouldn't enjoy watching it, as you already said).

Like, when would it be held-- in the summer, after the Stanley Cup champion has been decided? Not only would the winning NHL team have just finished playing 8 tough months of hockey, but the European representative will have finished its season a month earlier (the European leagues play on a different calendar, remember).

But, to play it in the middle of the season (during a break right after the European Champions Cup, for instance), with the previous year's Stanley Cup champion, doesn't exactly make sense either, since I'm sure the Stanley Cup team will have gone through some roster changes by then.

As far as the European players-- imagine a player like Peter Forsberg, playing for the NHL team, while the European team is from Sweden (possibly even MoDo, the club that Forsberg has played for). It would be a big deal over in Sweden if the Swedish team could knock off the favored NHL team. How would Forsberg feel if it was his job to help prevent what would be an "impossible dream" for his homeland?

Not to mention how ridiculous it would be for a team from Russia or Europe to face off against an NHL team, with international pride at stake, while knowing that one or two of their country's best players (players who maybe came back home to play on their team during the lockout) are on the other side, playing against them.

Believe it or not, I think on the face of it that it's a really cool idea. There are a lot of issues to be worked out (or ignored), though.

10/24/05, 8:42 PM

 

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