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NHL vs. KHL could fill in for All-Star game

June 29, 2012

While most of the CBA negotiations will revolve around revenue sharing between the players and owners, there will be other topics put on the table; Olympic Participation, a World Cup schedule and more will be hammered out as well.

I’d be interested to see one other international connection made during these talks. Not only should a solid transfer system be worked out between the NHL and KHL, I think some sort of Challenge Cup competition should be developed as well.

The Victoria Cup was an interesting development and certainly a step in the right direction. However, the execution wasn’t ideal and the failure of the Champions Hockey League added to the difficultly in formatting. Taking some elements from the Champions League and Victoria Cup would be a good starting point for creating an effective replacement.

First off, the Champions Hockey League was a brilliant idea and it is a shame it had to fold. Combining Europe’s elite leagues into one massive tournament – just like FIFA does – created a unique product. I would assume it just didn’t have enough time to get legs.

Having the Champions League winner play the Stanley Cup Champion for the Victoria Cup was also an obvious step in the right direction. However, forcing the Stanley Cup champs to start the season in Europe was a mistake. This creates problem number one, even rotating the hosts will royally piss off one of the two clubs participating each season. However, it does create the first obvious solution; the NHL’s top club should be playing Europe’s top club for this trophy.

Perhaps scaling this competition back to just the NHL and KHL would be the first logical step towards a solution. This way the world’s two top leagues – in terms of talent – would be putting their best teams on display against each other.

I would leave the “championship game” in the preseason so that the regular season wouldn’t be interrupted by an exhibition. Exploring the possibility of playing the game early in the preseason could take away some of the logistical issues that could be experienced by either team being forced to travel.

The reason I’d like to see this type of event worked back into the schedule is because it could eventually grow into an interesting side story for the beginning of the year. It would never replace the Stanley Cup in terms of reverence and significance, it would be silly to assume that. The goal is to bring a different type of competition to the table.

The biggest problem is that neither participant would likely have much interest in winning the game. Even as a competition that is supposed to determine the best team between the two leagues, NHL players wouldn’t take it as serious as a playoff game and I would imagine the KHL players wouldn’t have much more interest either. Still, it would be something different and could eventually be worth keeping up with.

All-Star option

Another choice, which could make more sense, would be to replace the traditional All-Star game with this type of inter-league challenge. The Victoria Cup could still be the trophy awarded to the winner, but it would be between leagues, rather than teams.

There would be two ways to go about doing this. Make it a challenge between the NHL and KHL or a challenge between the NHL and Europe’s best. The NHL All-Stars would be chosen to participate, but rather than a typical 13-11 All-Star game, it would be an NHL All-Star team against a KHL, or European All-Star team.

I would keep the NHL All-Star draft option and allow fans to vote on a select group of players as the captains. Perhaps give a pool of ten skaters to be selected as captains. Then allow the captains to choose their team. The same would be done on the European side of things. This way, the fan quotient is accounted for while finding a new way to spice up the All-Star Game.

The Skills Competition would be that much better because there have been a few questions raised about players in the KHL knocking off NHL marks in their own skills competition. This format would erase all doubt as to who deserves the crown in each event.

A safe assumption is that the proceedings at the game itself wouldn’t change much. Both sides wouldn’t be interested in getting hurt, which could still lead to inflated scores. However, I think there would be a little more competition created by the inclusion of an entirely different league.

This solution seems to make the most sense because it wouldn’t require an entire team to ship across the Atlantic and it could be coordinated for the All-Star break for each league. That way there would be no side effects in terms of jet lag, missed games or anything else that would come up.

I would think that it would be necessary to play the game in the US. While it would be nice to rotate the location between the leagues, not a soul in North America will have much interest in watching a tape delay All-Star game being played in Ufa.

Call it the NHL/KHL All-Star Challenge, call it the Victoria Cup, call it the Bridgestone All-Star Showdown brought to you by Pepsi, it’s all deadly. I just think that it would add some entertainment value to bring the two leagues that compete so closely for talent together in a single venue to face off with one another. While this game wouldn’t necessarily determine superiority, it would at least give one league some bragging rights.

 

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