Today we will discuss the appointment of Alexey Morozov as the new KHL President. He replaced Dmitry Chernyshenko a few days ago.

Morozov – the New KHL President

So, the KHL Board of Directors elected unanimously Alexey Morozov to the position of the league’s president. The previous president, Dmitry Chernyshenko, who had been in that post since November 2014, was appointed the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation on January 21. Just to note, Alexey Morozov is also the Managing Director of the MHL (the major junior league in Russia) and he will continue in his role until a new person is elected to replace him. It might happen in March or after the season is over.

Alexey Morozov is a famous former hockey player. As a child, he started to play the game of hockey at the Krylya Sovietov hockey school in Moscow. As a professional player, he played for the Russian clubs Krylya Sovietov, Ak Bars Kazan and CSKA Moscow. He also spent seven seasons in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Finally, Morozov helped Team Russia to Olympic silver in Nagano in 1998 and he led the Russian National Team to back-to-back World Championships Gold in 2008 and 2009. On the club level, he won the Russian Superleague (2006) and two Gagarin Cups with Ak Bars, as well as helping the Kazan club to lift the European Champions’ Cup.

Will René Fasel Join the League?

The Russian media started their speculations about the league’s future immediately after Chernyshenko’s appointment to Deputy Prime Minister. The rumours consisted of two names as his successors, Alexey Morozov and René Fasel (IIHF President).

Here I will remind you of my article about René Fasel and his possible role in the KHL. “When Fasel’s presidency in the IIHF is over, we can talk about his role in our league,” said Morozov at his first press conference as the KHL President. Of course, there will be speculation about Fasel all summer. I expect some clarification as early as September when he leaves the IIHF office. 

In conclusion, let’s have a look at Gerhard Schröder, the former Chancellor of Germany. As of now, he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Rosneft. You may already know, the oil giant Rosneft is the business entity located in Russian Federations like the KHL.

Of course, there is no reason to claim that Fasel would replace Gennady Timchenko as the KHL Board of Directors Chairman. Not at all. But Fasel could hold the position of the Board of Directors member while being responsible for the KHL’s international relations. As I said earlier, some kind of envoy for the league. But we need to wait a few months to confirm this speculation of mine. All in all, my point is as follows. It would be nothing extraordinary if Fasel joins the KHL while having a very exclusive position in the league’s leadership. While saying this, I will remind you that Jokerit’s owner Jari Kurri is also a member of the KHL Board of Directors.

The KHL Development Under Morozov

We can make some conclusions from the first Morozov interview. So, Morozov will continue in the work started by Chernyshenko and his team. Of course, there might be some personnel changes in the leadership within time, I mean the members of the KHL Executive Board, but the league will continue its development by following the league’s strategy. That strategy aims to the development of the league’s and clubs’ business.

Just a few words about the most important issue – the salary cap mechanism. Even though there is some opposition from CSKA, the league decided to introduce a new mechanism of a salary cap and salary floor starting next season. The KHL will implement a strict salary cap at ₽900 million (around  €13 million). I just point out that the salary cap does not include some bonuses and salaries of U21 players. While being strictly regulated the budget of players’ salaries could climb a bit higher, if counting some bonuses and U21 players, but not as much as now in some cases (reportedly ₽1,7 billion, so around €25 million). So, there will be more parity.

Especially with the implementation of the salary floor. It will be ₽270 million (around €4 million, so 30% of the cap) in 2020-21 and will rise to ₽450 million (around €7 million, so 50% of the cap) by 2023-24. The clubs could not spend less than that sum to the salaries of their players. Of course, before the 2020-21 season’s start, the clubs will need to guarantee at least ₽315 million (around €4,6 million) for salaries, covering bonuses, so the salary floor sum plus 5% of the cap. The same will apply for the 2023-24 season when they need to guarantee at least 55% of the salary cap, so ₽495 million (around €7,2 million).  

A Hidden Loan in the KHL

Surely, the biggest challenge for Morozov is the change of the rules regarding the players’ movement within the league and abroad. But the league has been considering this issue for months, so Morozov will just finish the work.

First of all, there is a phenomenon of a hidden loan in the league. A club cannot loan a player to another club, so the club formally trades that player to another team. But both teams verbally agree that the player will come back to his previous team after a season is over. Legally, it is a trade, but de facto it is a loan, the hidden loan. The league wants to make some clarity with it. After all, the loan is a classic instrument of a player movement in European football. A footballer is loaned to a club while being obligated to come back to a previous team after a period of a loan is over. Of course, there is also a rule when his new club can buy that player after a period of the loan is over if both clubs and the player agree.

The KHL will announce the loan rules later, we will see how it all will work. Right now, we can say the league tries to create the best environment for the young players to develop. If such a player can not make a KHL roster in CSKA, he can be loaned to a weaker team. And come back to CSKA when he is ready for that team. Of course, he could stay in that weaker team if all parties agree.  

How to Keep Young Players in the Russian Leagues?

Finally, another big issue is prospects moving abroad, especially to the junior leagues in Canada and the USA. Morozov as the MHL Managing Director knows about it very well. He announced the KHL is working on a mechanism to stop that trend. As of right now, there are no further details available.

Moreover, the Russian Hockey Federation (FHR) has been working on the issue as well. The FHR plans to start a new youth league next season – the Russian Hockey League. It should be for U15-U17 players and only the top 16 Russian hockey clubs would play in that league. Right now, there are U18 leagues but they are divided regionally, top teams play each other only at the end of a season. That is not enough. So, the level of competition is not as good as the FHR would like to see.

Of course, a majority of prospects are not good enough to play in the MHL (U20) at the age of 16-17 and they choose to play abroad instead. If we look at the statistics of the Russian prospects moving to Canada or the USA, we can see the evident trend. They were among top Russian prospects while playing in Russia at the age of 15-17, even top prospects of the world, but they have not materialised – while playing abroad  – into elite players at senior level. That is a very negative consequence for the Russian National Team, so Russian hockey suffers from this prospect movement abroad.

Of course, if a player at the age of 16-17 is good enough for the MHL, he will play in the MHL. The Russian Hockey League will be there for those being under MHL level at that age. And the league will be competitive because of having only elite clubs in the competition.

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Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images)

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I support European club hockey and I want European hockey to be as strong as possible. European hockey fans have witnessed too many attempts to launch a cross-border competition. I have been following hockey all my life and I have had the same question. Why is there not a hockey version of the UEFA Champions League? Or a European version of the NHL? 2008 was a year when a version of both, was launched. As a fan, I started to follow both leagues although it was not cool to follow the KHL at the time. Furthermore, it was a bit complicated to get the first-hand information about the KHL, the media did not cover the league as deeply as I would want. Based on my experience with the KHL & other European club hockey competitions I would like to write about the most important on and off-ice, issues of European club hockey.