For the last few years, the NHL has been sending various teams overseas to start the NHL season, with those teams playing regular season games in European cities. For the first time, the league included Edmonton in the plans, with the Oilers slated to play the Capitals in Russia to kick off 2011-12. Unfortunately, it appears those plans have been kyboshed.
According to a report published this morning over at ESPN by the eminently credible Pierre LeBrun, the NHL and the KHL weren’t able to work out an agreement that would have seen the NHL teams start the season in Russia:
While KHL president Alexander Medvedev said last week in Russia that the NHL had asked for too much money and that’s why the games are a no-go, two sources told ESPN.com that another reason for the collapse in talks was that Medvedev was "resistant" to the notion of two NHL teams playing each other in Russia. Instead, the KHL president wanted the two NHL teams to face off against KHL clubs. The NHL balked — the point of the Premiere Games is to feature regular-season NHL games between NHL teams.
It’s a report that makes a lot of sense; the KHL is a very good league and having KHL teams faceoff against teams from the NHL would certainly have given the league a boost in legitimacy (particularly since they stood a good chance of going 0.500 if one of the teams was the Edmonton Oilers). It’s equally clear why the NHL would not want to participate; aside from the fact the league doesn’t especially want the KHL to look like a credible alternative, the whole point of these overseas games is to sell the best league in the world to a foreign hockey market. Playing against KHL teams doesn’t really help them do that.
Still, I think it’s a shame we haven’t seen at least preseason games between KHL and NHL teams; I know I’d tune in to watch them, and I’m a guy who generally views the preseason as a crass commercial venture with almost no relevance to regular season hockey. At least with KHL teams in the mix it would be interesting.
Apparently, Hockey And Earth Hour Don’t Get Along
Earth Hour, the annual event where people all over the world turn off non-essential electricity for an hour to boost environmental awareness, failed to resonate in Alberta’s two biggest cities. Articles at both CBC and the Vancouver Sun blamed unusually cold temperatures, and the Flames/Oilers tilt on Hockey Night in Canada for the fact that power usage actually increased that hour rather than going down.
With Calgary fighting for an increasingly unlikely playoff spot, I’m not surprised power went up there. Honestly though, given how incredibly loyal Edmonton Oilers fans are, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that enough people tuned in to watch to make a difference in power usage.
Tyler Bunz, the Oilers fifth round pick in last summer’s draft, is going to miss at least two playoff games after suffering a concussion. Bunz, whose selection in last year’s draft seemed a little suspect at the time, has had a breakthrough season with Medicine Hat, with his save percentage jumping from 0.898 last season all the way up to 0.919 this season.