BERN, Switzerland – Alexander Medvedev, the billionaire owner of Russia’s Continental Hockey League, is interested in buying an NHL franchise.
“We have considered 10 opportunities, we have short-listed three and we continue to look at these three teams,” Medvedev said Tuesday at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. “We will just make our due diligence.
“It’s a very strange situation when real hockey (cities) like Quebec don’t have an NHL team.”
It might be even stranger that someone who has such a chilly relationship with the NHL would even express interest in the possibility of owning a team. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said via email that he wasn’t aware of any serious efforts by Medvedev to buy a team.
Daly and Medvedev are expected meet later this week at the world championship.
Medvedev says he hasn’t had any formal discussions with the NHL since a meeting with commissioner Gary Bettman during the Hockey Hall of Fame’s induction weekend last November. Despite a rocky start to relations between the KHL and NHL, Medvedev believes the two leagues might one day find common ground.
“I believe we have a great potential of co-operation with NHL,” he said. “The ball is on their side. We could do quite a lot together to develop hockey both in Europe and North America.”
The leagues remain without a formal player transfer agreement and it’s extremely unlikely the NHL would ever welcome Medvedev into its ownership circle.
Even though the Russian league ran into some financial difficulty during its first season, Medvedev remains committed to trying to expand throughout Europe.
He says that he’s recently received a letter from Farjestads GM Hakan Loob on behalf of five Swedish teams that are interested in discussing the future of European hockey. Those five teams – Farjestads, Frolunda, Djurgarden, Linkoping and HV71 – recently informed the Swedish Elite League that they intended to pull out after next season.
Medvedev hopes to sit down with the Swedish teams sometime next month but doesn’t want to rush expansion. He indicated that it’s important the proper moves are made to help the league emerge from some of its financial problems.
“I believe that crisis time is the best time to discuss future options,” said Medvedev. “Because we should come from crisis stronger, more competitive with better hockey, because if we will not our fans will not forgive us.”
The KHL had 24 teams for its inaugural season – some of whom had trouble paying salaries. Medvedev says that any team that still owes money to its players by the end of May “will lose the right to play.”
“We don’t need clubs with debts,” said Medvedev. “We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of NHL when 10 clubs already in big trouble.”
He remains optimistic about the future of his league despite facing many challenges so far.
“Every new idea has an opposition and people afraid to face new challenges,” said Medvedev. “Again, the major criteria should be the public who should decide what’s better for the development of hockey.”