If you havenâ€™t heard of Alex Medvedev, then you should. Medvedev is the deputy chief executive of Russian natural gas producer Gazprom. Heâ€™s also an avid hockey fan, and is captain of his companyâ€™s team.
Medvedev is looking to create a European â€œSuper Leagueâ€ that could greatly impact the player exchanges with the NHL, and has brought in former NHL Players' Association chief Bob Goodenow to help get the league started. As reported by the Toronto Sun:
The likelihood of a new European league has increased in recent years as hockey federations in Russia and elsewhere in Europe have grown disenchanted with the NHL over its recruitment of their best players.
At the same time, Medvedev has ample dollars to start a competitor to the venerable NHL. In an interview from Russia, Medvedev confirmed that former Russian NHL star Igor Larionov and Goodenow are members of a so-called "working group" that's starting the league. Goodenow travelled to Moscow this week to discuss the prospective league, Larionov said.
Medvedev's representatives already have contacted broadcasters and sponsors, and could start the league as soon as September 2008, Larionov said. An executive with Finland's public broadcaster, YLE, confirmed he was approached several months ago about buying rights to televise the new league.
With the current state of player exchange from European teams extracting $200,000 (U.S.) per player, teams in Europe are arguing that the amount is too small. Both Russia and Sweden have currently severed relations with the NHL in regards to player exchange over the matter.
The threat of a â€œSuper Leagueâ€ in Europe could further place pressure on the player exchange agreements with other countries beyond Russia and Sweden.
How has the NHL responded to Medvedevâ€™s efforts?
Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, said of the league: "We wish them luck with what appears to be a very ambitious project."
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football ,The Biz of Basketball, and The Biz of Hockey. He is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus, Basketball Prospectus and is an available writer for other media outlets.
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