Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in Russia. Since 1972, when the USSR national ice hockey team had won a sensational victory over the Canadian national team in the super-series of eight exhibition matches, ice hockey has continued to grow in popularity with every year. Ice hockey, very dynamic game, which causes spectators to experience a lot of strong emotions. The player’s skilled movements in combination with bright colors and cheerful music create a fascinating show which people in Russia love watch immensely.
One of the reasons for the vast popularity of ice hockey in Russia is that players on the national team are some of the world’s best players. The victory in the recent Olympic Games in Pyongyang proves it is true. However, as soon as some sportsman achieve any significant results in ice hockey, he is most likely to leave the country and move abroad either to Canada or to the USA in order to become a foreign player on local teams.
Because sportsmen cannot earn a lot of money in Russia, and the training to become an ice hockey player is very expensive, players often have to play overseas o make more money. Managers in the leading Russian ice hockey clubs must pay sportsmen better and develop a new training system which could make a training much more affordable.
According to Travis Hughet in “Slava Fetisov Broke Hockey’s Iron Curtain, And Now He Proposes it Come Back”, the Russian Continental Hockey League is facing a definite problem when so many skilled young ice hockey players go overseas to play hockey.
While some great Russian sportsmen such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Sergei Borovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov have become a benefit for the USA hockey teams, it would be much better for KHL if those sportsmen under the age of 28 stayed in Russia. Because of the very difficult economic situation in the country, Russian players are paid a low salary.
On the other hand, sports clubs in other countries offer much more money and many players from Russia are willing to take those offers. Vyacheslav Fetisov was the first ice hockey player from the USSR who left the country for the NHL in 1989. Although he was put under pressure by the Soviet government not to play overseas, Fetisov never gave up until finally he signed a contract with the New Jersey Devils. It is very surprising that, in spite of his own experience, Fetisov (who is now a member of the Federation Council from the Primorye Territory) proposes that the ice hockey players should not be released to North America from the KHL until they are 28 years old. He said, “To make it work, you just need to add one phrase to the rules: club-player relations should be regulated not only by the labor code but also in other documents.” He sees keeping young players in Russia as the only solution for the problem of losing so many talented sportsmen.
One way to approach the problem is for Russia to pay sportsmen better than they are paid now. According to official statistics on the NHL website, 232 Russian ice hockey players (218 field players and 14 goalkeepers) have played in the NHL during the period from 1983 to 2018. Why are those numbers so high? Players want to be better paid. When most of those sportsmen signed their contracts, the ruble cost two or even three times more than it costs now. To play overseas has become for them the only opportunity to earn more money. Thanks to the fact that Russia is now a democratic country, the government cannot restrict people to stay inside the country. However, the government could influence ice hockey sports clubs in order to make them pay their players better. That might help to solve the problem of sportsmen leaving the country.
However, just increasing salaries for ice hockey players cannot entirely end this problem. More important to make ice hockey training more affordable. Thousands of Russian children dream to become successful ice hockey players. They are aware that the training is very hard and that they might suffer from physical and emotional pain children still ask their parents to let them have the training. When they agree, parents have to pay for the training lessons and for their children to participate in matches. They also have to cover the travel expense to other cities faraway games, not to mention to buy a lot of very expensive sportswear and equipment.
Parents whose children have ice hockey training often have to ask for huge loans from banks or sell their property in order to get enough money for their children to continue. When children grow up and become professional ice hockey players, a lot of them have parents who have to pay back loans for the rest of their lives. That why young players are so desperate to earn as much money as possible in a short period of time. It is clear, the training to become an ice hockey player has to be more affordable. One way to do this, for instance, would be to establish sports ice rings in every district of the big Russian cities where children practice ice skating during the winter time. Also, it would help if highschool aged ice hockey players performed training sessions for children as a partime job and the fees for those training sessions would be covered by the sports clubs that the players belong to. In this way, young sportsmen could earn money while children in training and their parents would save a lot of money on training lessons.
In a brief, as long as the economic situation in Russia remains awful, a very high number of talented ice hockey players will leave the country to play hockey overseas. However, if the government and sports clubs work together to create affordable training systems for future sportsmen and find a way to pay much better salaries to ice hockey players, the problem of Russia losing their best players en-masse could be solved. Owners of ice hockey teams in Russia could adjust the player’s salaries based on currency value every 3 months to be sure that players in their teams are paid fairly. We love hockey, and we want our top ice hockey players to play in the Continental Hockey League. In this way, Russians wetness more sensational victories and feel proud of their country.