Globetrotting: Amur Khabarovsk fires coach

Five games in a 56 game KHL schedule means a lot more than 5 games in an 82 game NHL season, but it still takes some getting used to when you see a coach "resign" after sputtering out of the gate to 3 points in 5 games.  Alexander Blinov, head coach of Amur Khabarovsk for a little over a year, stepped aside after Saturday's 4-2 loss to league-leading Dynamo Minsk.  Khabarovsk has been a cellar dweller since the KHL opened two years ago, having to yet make the playoffs.  They're a team that faces unique challenges...  Khabarovsk is located in the Far East, close to the Chinese border.  A trip from Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Express takes over 5 1/2 days, covering nearly 8500 km.  All of their games so far have been at home, to some pretty road weary opponents:  Minsk, Riga, CSKA Moscow, and two games against 'nearby' Novosibirsk (over 5100 km away).  They managed a single OT win and an OT loss in the 5 games, and now only have 23 home games left, while still having 28 road games to play. 

In that light, a firing is a bit more understandable.  As Derek Zona explains, it's a lot more understandable when you see his math skills. 

"It's unclear why our attack has become toothless. We're averaging 35 shots on goal per game, but we're not scoring. We've played this home series very poorly. I apologize to the fans, you just can't play like that at home. We have some time now before we go on the road. We're going to try to figure out the reasons for the losses." - Alexander Blinov

Blinov's math is a bit off as Amur's shot totals were 26-22-22-25-19 through the first five games.

Best of luck to Yury Kachalov, who takes over as interim coach.  Amur features Yann Danis in goal, minor league veteran David Ling as captain, former NCAA star Brett Skinner on the blueline, and a virtually anonymous group of Russian talent.  Alexander Mogilny, who grew up in Khabarovsk, serves as a consultant to the team. 

Join me after the jump for some more links from around the hockey world.

Maxim Afinogenov Exits NHL On A High Note - Die By The Blade
Yesterday, I posted Afinogenov's first KHL goal.  If you like what you saw there, check out this YouTube aided recollection of Afinogenov's NHL career. 

Belarus launches women’s team
Well, you've got to start somewhere.  For a country that loves hockey as much as Belarus, it's high time they started a women's program.  Apparently they've upped their registered female hockey players from 2 in 2009 to 31 this year.  That's a growth of 1550%.  That means by next year, if they maintain this pace, there will be 480 1/2 players.  In 2012, there will be 7447.75 female players.  And in 2013, there will be more registered Belarussian female hockey players than there are in Canada or the USA.  Now that's progress.

From the desk of Risto Pakarinen � Take five
On the fun side of things, Risto Pakarainen talks about the old Helsinki Arena's delicious sausages.  You read that right.

New format for IIHF Worlds
With World Championships being held in Sweden and Finland in both 2012 and 2013, the IIHF changes to a two-group format from the current four-group format to ease scheduling. This will add an extra game at the group stage.  I post this now because the Twitterverse reaction was a kind of lame groan about having to play another game, but it's really a logical move that will ease travel arrangements for all the teams involved, and allow the fans to purchase tickets knowing the schedule for the second week. 

Dutch player Kevin Bruijsten gets AHL tryout
Not often you hear of a Dutch hockey player making the rounds in North America, but Kevin Bruijsten of the Nijmegen Devils will be doing just that later this week, on a tryout for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Training camp starts September 26.  I'm curious as to how this tryout came about...  Bruijsten didn't light up the 2010 Division 1 Worlds or anything. 

Hobbit Wizard on Quest for a Job With the Rangers - NYTimes.com
Mats Zuccarello Aasen, the pint-size Norwegian star from the Swedish Elitserien, tries to win an N.H.L. job.  And check it out...  the NY Times Slapshot blog is back!  Hopefully they maintain the global focus this year.

Bourne Blog: Steroids in hockey; why current testing is inadequate - Puck Daddy - NHL  - Yahoo! Sports
Former professional player Justin Bourne lists the reasons why North America's pro leagues, and collegiate ranks, are failing when it comes to steroid testing.

Ex-Oilers exec becomes Hockey Canada head scout at pivotal time - Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey  - Yahoo! Sports
Kevin Prendergast was named as Hockey Canada's head scout, replacing Al Murray, who is now working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Prendergast will be a highly influential man in picking the national junior teams, and given his record with the Oilers, that's raised a few question marks.

Penn State Hockey: "Maybe We Can Find A Pennsylvania Crosby" - Black Shoe Diaries
Penn State launches its hockey program to a ton of fanfare.  SB Nation's Black Shoe Diaries, the Penn State blog, has all the details from the announcement.  This is being hailed as one of the biggest steps forward for US collegiate hockey since, well...  I don't know.  A long time ago, I'm sure.  Western College Hockey Blog has more on the subject, and Derek Zona weighs in on From the Rink about the possibilities of further NCAA expansion and the creation of a Big Ten Conference. 

Last, but definitely not least the IIHF ran a feature a couple weeks back on the Mexican Elite League's first ever draft.  The league launches in just two weeks, on October 2.  There are four teams, all with pretty kickass names:  Aztec Eagle Warriors, Mayan Astronomers, Teotihuacan Priest and Zapotec Totems.  It's the country's first ever semi-professional hockey league.  For the first year, it will be limited to only Mexican nationals, but foreign players will be allowed starting next year.  Good, because I was going to lodge a complaint via NAFTA.  Mexico currently is ranked #32 in the world according to the IIHF.

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