by Jas Faulkner, contributing editor
Sometime, roughly about the time you are getting your second cup of coffee or chatting up your colleagues as you wait for a late morning meeting to start, a referee is dropping a puck somewhere in eastern Europe. As you decide rush hour traffic has subsided and you are going to run some errands, there has been a the sharp plok as sticks slam together in an effort to gain control of the puck and large men balanced on blades go from crouched in predatory anticipation to a flurry of movement that will make your average crossing guard throw a grand mal hissy fit at the temerity of moving at such speeds around orange cones.
What is happening as you are engaged with watercooler talk about whether there will be an NHL season any time soon is the ongoing season 2012/13 KHL season.
Bettman and the majority of coaches, GMs, and CEOs will shout from the podiumtops about the greatness of the NHL. They’ll tell you it is the greatest league on the planet.
You know something? Before you take that as gospel, you need to take a look at the KHL.
“I have no interest!” snarled one writer in our virtual pressroom.
“Completely alien to me,” quacked a fan during an online press conference.
In the past two and a half decades, Mother Russia has provided the NHL with a lioness’s share of its more memorable players. Skating in from the east are the rebels, the innovators, the fan favourites, the poets, the artists, and the iconoclasts. Names that you associate with storied franchises and lines that incite furious exchanges on sports talk radio the morning after originated in places where Canada was seen as the almost mythic Eden of hockey. They worshipped Roy and Orr and Gretzky. Unlike most hockey fans over here, they also followed a league with teams named “Traktor” and “Lokomotiv” and “Metallurg” and “Dinamo.”
In terms of sheer damned awesomeness, the KHL is Ginger Rogers to the NHL’s Fred Astaire. She did everything he did, except backwards while wearing high heels. The KHL does everything the NHL should be doing right now, except they are powering their way through a season that spans three continents, eight countries and nine time zones.
“But why should I watch-?”
Look, I can’t make you do anything, nor would I want to. I’ll say this. it is elite hockey and transcends borders, it’s exciting and if that doesn’t make you want to see what’s going on in the KHL, I present this picture from Prague’s Lev Praha site:
Yes, that is Pavel Freaking Datsyuk. Over here he’s just as amazing on the ice, but he also has this rep as the sweet, nebbishy younger brother to flashier artiste Alex Ovechkin and stoic big brother Evgeni Malkin. His decent to the marrow demeanor most likely appeals to the Czechs, but they’re not afraid to show a picture that makes him look like he’s about to go slam Chuck Norris against a wall and tell him to quit being such a baby.
If you don’t love this, you need to give your sweaters to the local Goodwill and take up competitive hula-hooping as your sport of choice.
Want to learn more? Look for history features, the KHL stars of the week and coverage from Anatoliy Metter and Josh Smith. For you interactive types. Chris Wassel is holding forth on Fantasy KHL this season. Does Russia seem like that big, mysterious place we can’t decide if we like or not? I’ll be bringing you stories about the culture of hockey in the KHL and help you not only find the teams’ cities on the map, but give you information about the people who make the magic happen on that side of the world.
At THW, we’re excited about covering the KHL and can’t wait to reveal a whole new world of hockey to you. See you soon, or as they say in Russia: До свидания, и мы будем видеть вас в ближайшее время, друзья мои!
Jas Faulkner is a minimally socialised writer and artist who lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee. She hearts her attitude problem.