Even as the relationship between the NHL and KHL deteriorates, representatives from Avangard Omsk and the New York Rangers continue to work towards building a partnership between their two clubs. Omsk general manager Anatoli Bardin, who first revealed plans for such a relationship following his visit to New York last April, discussed Rangers assistant coach Mike Pelino’s curent visit to Omsk with Soviet Sport, and expanded on the clubs’ plans to further develop their relationship.
“The first step of our mutual friendship is the arrival of Pelino in Omsk,” explained Bardin, revealing that Pelino’s trip will last five days. “We will conduct a joint seminar; Mike will interact with our coaches. The Rangers coach will go with us to Kazan [for Omsk's season opener on Wednesday] and will watch the game with AK Bars. And then he will return to America via Moscow.”
Bardin elaborated on plans for future cooperation between the two teams. “When the KHL season ends, we will send one or two of our coaches to New York. Our coaches will be waiting there in June, when prospect camp opens. It seems the Americans would like for the Avangard coaches to train the Rangers youth.” Bardin continued, revealing plans for a further exchange of personnel and a possible youth tournament. “In the near future the Rangers doctor will come to us for a week. We will also exchange children’s teams.”
Plans for the two teams to meet in an exhibition match remain on the radar, though there wasn’t time to put something together for this season. “It’s a pity that we weren’t able to organize a meeting between the Rangers and Avangard this season. It would have been neccessary to arrange it as early as a year ago. But at the time I didn’t hold this post in the Omsk club,” he explained. “It is in our plans to conduct a series of matches with the New Yorkers,” Bardin shared, adding that such a meeting would allow his team to guage its strength against the NHL.
Bardin was asked about the teams’ deepening relationship in light of the growing cold war between their respective leagues. Despite the partnership he hopes to foster with the Rangers, his attitude towards the NHL is far from conciliatory. He offered his full support for the KHL’s decision to end the moratorium on signing players with NHL contracts, adding that he never would have entered such an agreement in the first place. “It is absolutely the correct decision. I wouldn’t have entered into this moratorium at all. Why is it necessary, if everyone knows that the NHL is accustomed to breaking the rules?” In fact, Bardin goes a step further, lobbying for the KHL to increase the number of foreign-born players a team can have on its roster from five to seven in order to allow teams to pull additional talent from the NHL. “At present the men from America swipe our youth from us. And we can’t touch NHLers. Is that really fair?” It’s hard not to concede his point. He concludes, “I am not a nationalist. But it is necessary to fight against the NHL.”
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