The KHL sees your Las Vegas and raises you a London. Just weeks after officially making China the eighth country with a KHL team, the league could possibly be adding a ninth by expanding to England.
BREAKING - KHL and Great Britian have come to terms for their expansion to UK. Hearing team will be based in London.— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) July 15, 2016
The fact that this comes so quickly after the NHL made its expansion to Las Vegas official is most likely not a coincidence. Competition between the two leagues has grown in recent years as Russia hopes to keep its star players in its own league and prevent them from going to North America. That has been a growing issue in Russia of late with even Slava Fetisov, who famously made the jump to the NHL himself in 1989, saying the KHL should block Russian players from leaving.
Why is London significant? Because if the NHL ever chose to become more global by expanding overseas, England would be a likely candidate. The NFL plays regular season games in England every year now and has long been rumored to want to add an expansion team there. Doing so would further expose that country to American sports and possibly pave the way for other leagues, like the NHL, to also expand there.
But now the KHL has beaten them to the punch.
It will be very interesting to see if London has the market to support a KHL team. There is currently a hockey league in the United Kingdom, the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL), but it does not a feature a team in London. The London Racers was the last professional hockey team based in the city and it suspended operations in the 2005-06 season due to a lack of facilities.
A KHL team would bring more talented players to London and better competition against other KHL teams, but will that be enough? Perhaps the city and the country will rally around its lone KHL team with a sense of nationalist pride as they face teams from Eastern Europe and Asia, or perhaps a game against a team from Chelyabinsk will fail to generate the same amount of interest as a game against a team from Manchester would.
Whatever may happen, you can bet the NHL will be watching very carefully.
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