KHL threatened by Russian ruble's collapse
Clubs struggling financially in country's top pro hockey league
The collapse of the Russian ruble is reportedly threatening the survival of the country's top professional hockey league.
The Globe and Mail reported that the Kontinental Hockey League has seen sponsors pull funding from some of its teams, causing players and coaches to either miss paycheques, be paid late or see the real value of their salaries reduced significantly.
Defenceman Ilari Melart, who plays in the KHL, told Finnish media today he hasn't been paid since October. They're only getting meal money.—@mirtle
While KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko met with team executives Wednesday, at least three clubs — Slovan Bratislava, Atlant Moscow Oblast and Dinamo Riga — were believed to be on the verge of collapse, the Globe and Mail reported.
U.S.-based Russian journalist Slava Malamud reported that Chernyshenko indicated the league could have fewer teams next season.
KHL President semi-confirms the league will contract next yr. "We will take a hard look at the teams who aren't meeting the league criteria"—@SlavaMalamud
Don't expect any concrete news on which KHL teams will fold for now, but Riga and Atlant are good guesses. Medvescak, Slovan may also leave—@SlavaMalamud
The ruble has lost nearly half its value against the U.S. dollar since July as traders fret over the impact of low oil prices on the Russian economy, as well as the impact of Western sanctions imposed over Russia's involvement in Ukraine's crisis.
It wasn't long ago that the KHL's deep-pocketed owners were considered a threat to lure Russian NHL stars like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin back to their home country.
In the summer of 2013, two-time 52-goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk walked away from the $77 million US left on his 15-year contract with the NHL's New Jersey Devils and signed a deal with SKA St. Petersburg that reportedly paid him upwards of $15 million per year.
The ruble crisis is also impacting Russia's pro soccer teams, which are worried about losing top players to clubs elsewhere in Europe.
With files from The Associated Press