6 Reasons the NHL Should Consider Joining Forces with the KHL
Unlike major North American sports like baseball, football and basketball, the game played outside of the continent is played at a very high level.
The hockey played in the Russian KHL may not be as high-quality as the hockey played in the NHL, but it would not be easy for fans to tell the difference.
Establishing greater cooperation between the two leagues would be great for the game. It could enhance the sport's overall development and improvement.
Here are six reasons the two leagues should consider joining forces.
The NHL and KHL have primarily honored each other's contracts on a regular basis.
However, there are no trades between the two leagues. The Buffalo Sabres could not complete a trade with the Moscow Dynamo at this point.
While the NHLPA would have to give its blessing to such a move—and the union has other things to consider right now—it could provide an interesting twist when it comes to player procurement.
Teams from the NHL and KHL would be able to trade with each other. Perhaps there would be some kind of limitation on trades that would allow teams one or two trades with the opposite league every two or three years, but deals would be allowed at least occasionally.
Make NHL a Sports World Leader
The NHL could move to a position of leadership when compared with the other North American sports leagues.
The NFL wants to expand its business on an international scope and so does the NBA.
Major League Baseball will occasionally open the season in Japan to expand its brand.
However, if the NHL could join forces with the KHL, it would be the first time one of the major sports leagues partnered itself with an international league.
That would be a bold step for the NHL to take and make it a true sports leader.
Better for the Game
The historic Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union in 1972 opened eyes in the sport.
Not only did it show that the caliber of hockey played in the USSR was of a very high quality, it was also played in a different style than the North American game.
The Soviets introduced the concept of cycling the puck that is now such a familiar part of the NHL game.
The North Americans emphasized the physical part of the game and that has become a bigger part of the hockey played internationally, particularly in the KHL.
Cooperation between the NHL and the KHL raises the level of the game by introducing each side to the type of hockey played by the other.
If the NHL and the KHL joined forces, and player trades between the two leagues were a possibility, it would motivate players.
Perhaps some players would not want to move from from Detroit to Moscow or from San Jose to Saint Petersburg or from Boston to Kazan. However, the knowledge that a trade could go through could light a fire under an under-performing player.
That would raise the overall level of play and benefit the NHL and the fans watching the game.
One of the most exciting aspects of the NHL and KHL joining forces would be the potential for an exciting championship series.
Perhaps the two leagues could have their winners meet every five years. Perhaps the All-Stars from the two league could meet in a series.
Perhaps the Stanley Cup could go to the showdown winner or perhaps a new piece of hardware could be offered.
Determining a legitimate "world champion" could be one of the byproducts between the two leagues working together.
While there is no formal agreement between the NHL and the KHL, both leagues honor each other's contracts.
However, Alexander Radulov bolted the NHL for the newly formed KHL in 2008 even though he was still under contract. That move caused quite a bit of resentment and controversy between the leagues.
Instead of controversy and disputes, an agreement to work together would begin a new era of cooperation.
That could only benefit the sport in the long run.