Hockey's New World Order Pt. 1. Scandinavia and Russia
Last weekend, Linkoping of the Swedish Elitseiren won the Nordic Trophy over fellow Swedish powerhouse Frolunda, while Finland's HIFK defeated well-known Swedish club Djurgarden for the bronze.
The Nordic Trophy is one of the most prestigious tourneys in all of Europe and it pits 10 teams—five of the best from both Sweden and Finland—against each other in a round-robin tourney.
Although this is an annual tourney, this year's competition was prefaced by some interesting conversations between a number of clubs from both The Swedish Elitseiren and Finlands' SMLigga.
Apparently, a number of the top clubs from both leagues have been discussing making the annual cup into more of an annual league. There have been hints that such a league might even extend membership to clubs in Norway and Denmark.
Both nations' hockey federations have strong infrastructures, and their governing bodies have voiced their disapproval of the formation of such a league, as have some of the member clubs. The IIHF would more than likely also have a say in any such merger, which at this point is still merely an interesting idea.
With the battle over top international players between the newly formed KHL and the NHL taking on a more prominent stance, you can't help but understand the sentiments of Scandinavian clubs—who now fear having their top talent being plucked away even more than it has been in the past.
A merger of the two leagues' top teams would more than likely solidify already strong fan interests in these tow nations, while quite possibly bringing in a new fan base as well. Beyond that, there could be the potential for bigger sponsorship deals and television contracts—all of which potentially protect their nations' own hockey interests.
The new Russian KHL is aggressively looking for clubs that fall outside the former Soviet Union's borders. Medvedev and friends have rolled out the welcome mat to a number of top European clubs in Scandinavia, the Czech Republic, Germany—and I believe Switzerland and Slovakia as well.
Although it is unclear if any of the contacted clubs have any real interest in signing on with the new league, it certainly brings new and interesting questions to the forefront of the battle between the KHL and NHL over players' contracts and other matters.
I believe that we are on the cusp of a new era in international hockey. Part two to follow.
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