Monday, January 11, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: KHL goes UFC

Have you ever wondered how long it might take for two teams to rack up 840* penalty minutes in a single game?

In Russia, it’s 3:39.

At least, that’s how long it took between Vityaz Chekhov and Avangard Omsk of the KHL last Saturday before the game had to be suspended for lack of players. In all, 18 game misconducts were handed out in a scene the IIHF website likened to something out of the movie Slap Shot.

From the sounds of it, Vityaz Chekhov is as close to a real-life version of the Charlestown Chiefs as you could possibly get. The IIHF report of the incident says the team routinely recruits “goons” that have put up big-time penalty minutes in North America, one reason Avangard president Anatoli Bardin says Vityaz is "embarrassing the KHL."

Case in point: Darcy Verot is a player who averages 11:34 penalty minutes and just 8:29 minutes of ice time a night and has 289 PIMs in just 25 games this season (looking to break his personal best of 511, set in 2007-08). He got things started before the game by shooting a puck at an Avangard player in warm-ups and then showed what a tough guy he is by fighting former NHL star (and one-time potential Oiler) Jaromir Jagr during the first wave of brawls.

After the game, Jagr told Sovietsky Sports (via Puck Daddy) that he was holding Verot as people fought around them when Verot said, “That’s it, we won’t fight.” When Jagr let go, he says Verot sucker-punched him.

Jagr was rattled after the game, saying he wants the KHL to “promptly reconsider the rules,” adding there should be fines for fighting and hefty suspensions for players who start “brawling during warm-ups.”

The first fight in this long series of brawls was started by Brandon Sugden, a player who was brought in by Vityaz to replace model citizen Chris Simon…don’t act surprised!

A site called has an amazingly in depth blow-by-blow of how things went down, but here's the Coles Notes version:

3:27 – Line brawl, started when Sugden jumps Alexander Svitov after a hit on Verot.

3:34 – More fights break out and four guys from each side are sent off.

3:37 – Another “free for all” involving players on the ice and seven more in the penalty boxes, leaving Avangard with four skaters and Vityaz with six.

3:39 – Two Avangard players penalized for leaving the bench and two Vityaz players are given 10-minute misconducts as another brawl breaks out; players leave the penalty boxes to join in the fun.

Pretty crazy stuff!

I don’t think this is the type of PR the league needs right now when A) it’s trying to catch on as a serious alternative to the NHL for fans and B) it’s trying to attract players away from the NHL where there are, you know, rules.

I wonder if UFC president Dana White has ever entertained the thought of on-ice MMA?

In the end, Vityaz was fined about $134,000 (four millions rubles) for basically being the instigator in all of this and for “damages caused to the reputation of the Kontinental Hockey League, its partners and Russian hockey as a whole.” The team also had six players suspended.

Avangard was fined one million rubles and had one player suspended.

The other interesting thing of note when it comes to the punishments handed out is the fact that Vityaz was basically warned that they could be kicked out of the league if this kind of thing happens again.

Clearly Vityaz is taking serious steps to make sure they avoid being involved in this type of situation in the future – in its report on the incident, Puck Daddy reports that tough-guy Josh Gratton is joining the team and Chris Simon could be back too. Great!

They say "any press is good press," but I don't think that's true in this case, as the KHL starts to look more and more like the LNAH; a place where washed-up goons go to play out the rest of their careers. You’ve got to wonder if players like Jagr will start to look elsewhere if these types of incidents continue to happen.

I bet Ray Emery wishes he was on the ice for that game though!

*Initially, 691 penalty minutes were handed out...but upon further review, the KHL decided to up it to 840, which is a new world record.

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