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Screenshots: KHL Uncertainty, Sami Jo Small, and the Kraken Mascot

Adam Proteau looks at the uncertainty surrounding North American players in the KHL, the PHF's Toronto Six hiring Sami Jo Small, and the unveiling of the Seattle Kraken's new mascot.

This is Screen Shots, the regular file in which we break down a few hockey topics in smaller sections. As always, we’ll get right to it:

1. The real world impacted the hockey business bubble this week when the Canadian government issued a warning to Canadian players in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League to leave the region immediately.

Really, the Canadian KHL players shouldn't have been there in the first place, from the moment Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine began, and as long as Russia continues to do horrific damage there. Financial considerations clearly won out in the early days of the war, but now there's real danger for North American players and players from any country that is rightfully condemning Putin and Russia, and they need to heed the federal government's warning to leave for another, safer land.

It’s bad enough WNBA star Brittney Griner remains a prisoner in Russia; the last thing anyone needs is a foreign hockey player to wind up arrested and used as a pawn in Putin’s horrific showdown with the West. If Putin continues to escalate the war in Ukraine, Russia will continue to be an outcast from the hockey world, and the KHL will be completely isolated.

It’s obviously unfair to suggest Putin’s awful intentions are supported by all Russian NHLers, but there’s a clear line in the sand being drawn here. Players who have backed Putin in the past will be called to account, and there’s no middle ground anymore. You either stand behind someone who won’t be looked upon fondly by history, or you take a stand against him and back Ukraine’s freedom fighters.

2. Congratulations to the Premier Hockey Federation’s Toronto Six franchise on hiring hockey icon Sami Jo Small as its new team president. Nobody loves hockey more than Small – nobody knows the financial challenges facing the professional women’s game – and she'll be excellent as the team and league continue their attempts to establish a solid foothold in the highly-competitive Toronto entertainment market.

It’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be quick, but the alternative – giving up on the idea elite hockey-playing women can grow their product to the point it attracts a mainstream audience – is not an option for Small. There’s still a sense the women’s game needs to amalgamate the PHF and Professional Women’s Hockey Association leagues into a single entity, but until that happens, it’s encouraging to see either league hand over their reins of power to smart and determined people like Small. She’s focused, no matter how long it takes, on getting the attention of more sports consumers and bringing them in to be true fans of their product. Small has all the tools to help the womens’ game get there. Her hiring is excellent news for the sport.

3. It’ll be fun seeing the Seattle Kraken unveil their new mascot Saturday. As we've seen most recently in Philly, a legitimately fun mascot is very possible, and can be a true influencer in and out of the home market. The Kraken have done most, if not all things right when it comes to their public image, and it’s hard to imagine them whiffing on this.

There are some mascots who hang on to safe, boring approaches to the job. But something tells us the Kraken will nail it, and produce something that resonates with their growing fan base and the NHL community in general. When entertainment leviathan Jerry Bruckheimer is in your team’s ownership group, you should expect its creative projects to be very good.


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