Lev Poprad Applies to Join KHL... Again.


The KHL had a deadline for prospective teams to submit applications for the 2011-12 season, and this year's has come with only one applicant:  Lev Poprad, the Slovak team that tried to join last year.  KHL President Alexander Medvedev confirmed this to Sport-Express, which was picked up by various Slovak news sources.  While the KHL has been looking at expanding on several fronts in recent years, the Slovakian entry is perhaps their most bold of plans:  they're entering a country with a well established national league and one of the major powers of the international hockey scene, and for the first time adding a country that was not part of the USSR.  Slovakia would become the fifth country represented in the KHL, joining Kazakhstan, Belarus, Latvia and Russia.  Also of note, Poprad is preparing to enter a team in the MHL, the U22 circuit of the KHL. 

The details of the bid aren't fully known, but the club has remained active even without a league to play in or any players.  Their official website recently ran a timeline of the club, and by the sounds of things they plan on targeting both Czech and Slovak players if they are approved.  The club has no association with HK Propad, a team in the Slovak Extraliga, although they'd have to play out of their arena, a 4500-5000 seater which is on the small side for the KHL.  The arena issue could be a problem, and the size of the city (55,000) doesn't leave much room for growth. 

It's no slam dunk that this thing gets through, although there's a lot of enthusiasm from the people behind the prospective club and from Medvedev.  The KHL is running into financial problems in at least twomarkets, as the first article alluded to Vityaz Chekhov and Avtomoblist Yekaterinburg being situations Medvedev is currently overseeing.  Chekhov currently has the smallest arena in the KHL, with a seating capacity of only 3300, and the Tatravagonka Arena in Poprad would rank around the second smallest in the league. 

I have my doubts about this particular team working out.  The KHL requires a large budget and while I don't doubt the passion of fans in northern Slovakia, I do doubt the sustainability of such a franchise.  Teams in major cities like Riga, Astana and Minsk either barely break even financially or are money pits.  The one thing a Poprad team would have on the others is that their revenue would be generated in Euros, which has a very favourable exchange rate to the Russian Ruble.

If this did go through, an interesting question must be asked:  what effect will having a KHL and MHL team have on the development of Slovakian (and Czech) junior players?  Will this help stop the exodus of top players to the CHL, and consequently, how would this affect the drafting of players by the NHL out of Slovakia? 

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