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KHL president: Russia focuses on World Championships, not World Cup in 2016

2014 Paralympic Winter Games - Previews: Day 0

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MARCH 07: Sochi 2014 President and CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko speaks to members of the media during the IPC-Sochi 2014 daily briefing ahead of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games on March 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

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The NHL wasn’t the only noteworthy hockey league hosting its All-Star Game this past weekend, as the KHL also collected its best (who weren’t on vacation) for a friendly exhibition.

League president Dmitry Chernyshenko held a press conference heading into that event on Sunday, providing some interesting insight into how the KHL (and in a way, Russian hockey) feels about developments in North America.

For one thing, Chernyshenko believes it would be great to stage a game between the winner of the KHL’s Gagarin Cup and the Stanley Cup, although he acknowledges that “there are still several obstacles in the way: technical difficulties and the different season schedules.”

Perhaps the most interesting revelation came when he seemed to boost the World Hockey Championships’ image above that of the renewed World Cup of Hockey, at least as far as 2016 is concerned.

“For Russians, the main event of 2016 will be the World Championships, which we’ll be hosting, and where we’ll need to show the same spirit of national unity as during the Olympic Games. We will always devise the season schedule with the interests of the national team in mind, so if the guys in charge of Team Russia decide that we should compete in the World Cup, we will re-arrange the schedule.”

As you can see from that last point, it’s not as if the KHL is shutting the door on adjusting to the World Cup if needed, though.

Former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk seemed especially amenable to the idea, stating that “it’s a worthy tournament, where everything is getting better and I’m really looking forward to it.”

KHL players are encouraged to participate in the event, so it might be a treat for hockey fans who miss seeing skilled players like Kovalchuk against NHL-caliber talent. We’ll see if the KHL ends up sending such talented athletes to the World Cup in 2016, however, especially with another tournament presenting potential competition.

Follow James O’Brien @cyclelikesedins