Interesting interview in Russia Today with Oleg Saprykin, KHL superstar and big difference-maker in this summer's World Championship.
He answers the inevitable questions about whether the KHL will ever be able to compete with the NHL in terms of drawing talent:
RT: You’ve had a chance to compare. First you played in Russia, then you went to the NHL and now you’re back in Russia playing for CSKA. How would you compare these two leagues, the NHL and the KHL?
Oleg Saprykin: I believe the NHL’s level is at a slightly higher than that of the KHL but I am sure we are getting close to reaching the same level. I think our playing fields are larger compared to the smaller ones in the NHL, which enables them to have more intense games and more supporters; and more active players who take more shots; and more active goalkeepers. I think these two situations are just too different. I think the KHL will reach this level soon and hockey will become more exciting for people who like and support it actively, just like in the NHL.
Elsewhere in the interview Saprykin makes more points about the fact that, while the skill level in the NHL is slightly higher than that in the KHL, he can foresee the KHL eventually evolving into an equally-talented league, so that the hockey world would really have two elite leagues. Given the global economic situation, it's not unthinkable. The economy in Russia is pretty dismal at the moment (worse even than here on our pig flu hobo continent), but if you look at the "long count" of history, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Central and Southeast Asia are on the rise. China and India will be generating all kinds of wealth in the near future; I'd expect plenty of that money would find its way into the Russian market, and thereby the KHL.
If the whole region doesn't get incinerated in a nuclear Indian-Pakistani-Afghan-American-Iranian-Israeli-Russian-Chinese war, that is.
On a cheerier note (that should make us wary, given the last sentence):
RT: Who do you think, is the most outstanding Russian hockey player in the NHL
Oleg Saprykin: I think that …it depends on the assessment criteria that you choose.
RT: Well who is a team leader, a leader without whom the team is not the same?
Oleg Saprykin: I would name two hockey players. It’s Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin.
RT: So, are they irreplaceable for their teams?
Oleg Saprykin: I think that they are irreplaceable.
Read the whole thing.