Thursday, July 24, 2008
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The KHL Will Break You
This week, our hockey scribe breaks down the Russian Super-Duper League.
Top of the morning, hockey fans! Last week we delved deep into the dark depths of the classic battle of Swede versus Finn; this week, I was planning on doing my bi-annual column, Good Buddhist?/Bad Buddhist?: Darcy Tucker, when current events shook the foundation of hockey to its very core, and I decided to write about that instead. Of course, I'm referring to the NHL-KHL contract spat, in which several of the league's top young stars (don't pretend like you don't own Jason Krog's autographed rookie card) have bolted to the Russian Super League.
Why on earth would anyone voluntarily go to Russia?, one might ask. After all, didn't guys like Sergei Zubov and Sergei Federov and Sergei Kissov risk their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, to escape from that bear-infested tundra? Why are promising youngsters like Alexander Radulov and Jaromir Jagr --guys with their whole careers ahead of them-- bolting to the oil-soaked grain fields of the Volga?
It couldn't po$$ibly be money, since all fans instinctively know that professional athletes are in no way motivated by large wheelbarrows full of cash (wheelbarrows full of cash are the standard method of payment for services in Russia). So what could possibly be motivating these players to cross over?
Fortunately for you loyal readers, I've compiled an exhaustive list of the pro's and con's of playing hockey in Russia versus playing in North America. And just so you know, I was not biased one way or the other in the least: it's no skin off my back if you borscht-eating god-haters spill cheap vodka-scented cologne over your 30-year old computer keyboards while writing me your mafia-mandated angry emails in your dumb-looking alphabet. And no, I didn't get that "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" tattoo across my forehead just now -- I've been meaning to get that for years, and the tattoo parlor just happened to have free wireless access this morning.
So here it is, a comprehensive and amazingly fair-minded breakdown of NHL versus KHL, using the very latest in outdated historical stereotypes and unfounded urban myths.
Pro-NHL: Russia is easy to invade -- As any fellow Polish-American will gladly tell you, Moscow was captured and held by the unstoppable Polish army from 1605 to 1618: if the Poles can do it, what hope does Russia have against the real superpowers in the region like France, Germany, and Outer Mongolia? This certainly has to weigh heavily on the minds of players considering the jump to the KHL.
Pro-KHL: Mail order brides arrive significantly faster -- Also, future brides suffer less chafing in their crates.
Pro-NHL: Players who ice the puck are taken out by trained KGB snipers -- Putin will do it himself if you ice it during the Olympics.
Pro-KHL: No more prank phone calls from 'Ivan Strokinoff -- The ex-KGB listening in on your wiretaps wouldn't get it anyway.
Pro-NHL: In Russia, Baba Yaga will eat your children -- as well as any junior players mulling around.
Pro-KHL: Free Unaccounted-for Nuclear Warhead Night -- Also, the first 15,000 fans will receive their own T-34 tanks, and surface-to-air missile launchers for the kids!
Pro-NHL: Russia's sweltering, oppressive heat not conducive to good ice -- If you're going to Russia, make sure to bring your AC. You'll thank me later.
Pro-KHL: The collectivization of hockey in the KHL means everyone starts the season with 15 goals -- Take that, capitalist pig-dogs! Everyone knows that meritocracy just favors the New York Rangers.
Pro-NHL: 1908 Siberian meteor may come back to finish the job any day now -- This time, it's personal.
Pro-KHL: In Russia, every woman looks like either Maria Sharapova or Danny Devito -- Actually, this one could easily go in the 'pro-NHL' category.
Pro-NHL: Games in Stalingrad Arena can take years, usually result in catastrophic devastation for both teams -- Former Flyers will hardly notice the difference, however.
Pro-KHL: Cuban cigars, cheap oil can be bought in vending machines anywhere in Russia -- Also, every Russian citizen gets 40 acres of uncut timber and a free serf.
Pro-NHL: U.S. home of God, who hasn't visited Russia since 1917 -- Good luck getting Jesus to help you win that faceoff, comrade.
Pro-KHL: Rasputin still alive, owns three Ovechkin jerseys -- 'Ole Raspy' also owns and treasures a puck signed by the Darius Kasparitis.
Pro-NHL: Russian borders nervously close to traditional invading hordes of Vikings, Mongols and Zoroastrians -- The last time the U.S. was invaded, Pancho Villa took over a grocery store for 15 minutes before fleeing from unfounded rumors of a possible U.S. response.
Pro-KHL: KSPN2 shows nothing but grandmaster chess matches, bear-baiting -- Although you probably want to turn the TV off before watching what depths humanity will reach during Russian Fear Factor.
Pro-NHL: Extremely popular Siberian teams routinely fly over 28 time zones for divisional games -- Pacific Division teams in the NHL are a bunch of whining crybabies.
Pro-KHL: Molotov Cocktails only $1.50 during happy hour -- In Soviet Russia, they referred to it as "Glorious Unhappy Hour of the Workers Paradise".
Pro-NHL: Dolph Lundgren will break you -- There's no Rocky Balboa to protect you in the defensive zone, tovarich.
Pro-KHL: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pasternak could beat the living crap out of Faulkner, Hemingway and Frost -- Although I'm pretty sure Melville could take Pushkin mano-e-mano, especially if their pitched battle occurred on the deck of a boat.
Pro-NHL: Alexei Yashin is there, asking everyone if he can crashski on their couch for a few days -- AWK-ward!!
Pro-KHL: Laura Bush never made it with a horse -- Not sure on Hillary, although rumor has it she was married to the mythical Bonobo of Little Rock.
Pro-NHL: Russian high earners are placed in higher mafia protection payment bracket -- That may be balanced out, however, as the wealthiest Russians get first crack at the hottest tennis players, ballerinas and babushkas.
Pro-KHL: In Russia, you get 800-page novels about Zubov/Federov needing to shoot more -- Also, every sentence in said novel ends with multiple exclamation points.
Pro-NHL: Hard-line apparatchiks adamantly opposed to carbon-fiber sticks, goalie masks -- You can still acquire a visor on the Ukrainian black market for 40,000 rubles.
Pro-KHL: According to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of 1917, most Russian players will end up playing in what is technically Germany anyway -- At least the bier arrives at your table on time.
Well, there you have it, a thoroughly-researched and scientifically-sound study on the pro's and con's of playing hockey in Russia. Winner? I'll let you decide... but the winner is obviously America. Duhski. Tune in next week when 14-year old Russian supergeniuses hack into my mainframe and divert the crate carrying my mail-order Gary Bettman to an uninhabited Kuril Island: my uncontrollable weeping may surprise you.