With Thursday’s de facto full-season deadline approaching, many NHL stars playing in the KHL have voiced their indifference towards the lockout. Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Ilya Bryzgalov have all made clear that they do not care if the NHL works out a new deal to salvage a season.
Via Reuters, Kostitsyn had this to say about the stalemate in negotiations, “Let’s put it this way – it would be better (for the players) if the lockout continues…Players want a definite answer. If the NHL season is lost – let it be that way. I would then play in Russia for the whole season.”
New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk also expressed his desire to stay in his native Russia, “I can play in the KHL for the whole year and I’ll do it with great pleasure…I am glad that no matter where we play we get a full house and very good support from the spectators. And it’s also nice to play in a good team. I’d love to compete in the playoffs for SKA. But if suddenly I’ll have to leave for the NHL, I don’t think it’ll be a big problem for the team as we’ve got four equal lines.” The star winger also emphasized his desire to play for more money, whether that be in the NHL or KHL, “Basically, I don’t rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL…I just don’t understand why they needed to sign such contracts? Or they were just hoping to cut the percentage later? I believe that the contracts must be respected and this is a fundamental question. There’s no way the head of the [NHL Players'] Association and the hockey players will agree on the wage reduction.”
Philadelphia Flyers’ goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, had this to say about the KHL’s pull for Russian internationals,”I think some of the players may not return to the NHL because you have everything here and major companies are going to pay the top players here big money. And, especially for Russians players who can play at home in front of their own fans and families and [earn] even bigger money than they have in the National Hockey League…The KHL can’t feed all the players, but for some big players – especially those with Russian passports – it might be a threat.”
The frustration associated with the NHL and NHLPA’s dysfunctional negotiating process has finally produced a tangible anti-NHL sentiment among some of the league’s biggest stars. The fact that perennial All-Stars are questioning the league’s ability to function and provide a product is not only sad, but also a bit sickening for hockey fans. The league that popularized the sport and and made these players global icons is, clearly, now in jeopardy of maintaing its credibility and elite status in the hockey world.
Quotes via Greg Wyshinski of Puck Daddy