Over at the IIHF website, writer Martin Merk has submitted a lengthy article on the current state of global economics, particularly when related to the sport of ice hockey. No, don’t leave the page yet..!Embed from Getty Images
The focus is on the demise of the Russian hockey teams and the continuing trend of their players migrating to more lucrative deals with North America’s NHL. The cause seems largely due to sanctions imposed on Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine, which has seen the Ruble weaken and financial offers to players just not being what they were. There has been a knock-on effect with former Soviet countries such as Belarus and Kazahstan, with their players migrating similarly west.
So, where does Great Britain come into this? The article considers that, out of the world’s major currencies in areas where ice hockey players earn salaries, the UK Pound is the only one out of 26 to have actually increased in value. Although negligible, this does still increase a British club’s pulling power and has seen a modest rise in Eastern European prospects reaching our shores.
Why, then, aren’t British teams doing better in European competitions if they are signing players from some of the stronger countries? Sheffield Steelers and Braehead Clan were in Champions Hockey League action last week but both succumbed to humilating losses which show we can’t yet complete on the continental stage. The fact is that, although the Pound is stronger than it was, the salaries we are actually offering the players still isn’t all that much when compared to other British pasttimes. Therefore, despite the potential of signing European players, we’re not actually signing ones that can make a difference.
The worry there is that, similar to the English Premier League in football, this could devalue our own crop of British talent if they can’t find their way into an Elite League roster. We’re not at crisis point yet; Great Britain finished second in the World Championship B Division in April, losing out to a Korean side they’d already beaten in the group stage, so they’re not far off. But the league is fragile, and signing unknown quantities just because they can attract them from the poorer leagues won’t necessarily increase the entertainment.
The Elite League 2015-2016 season faces off next week and it’ll be interesting to see how the new faces fare in a league with a respectable following, but hanging on a skate’s edge.