The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING?
canuck-skis league-ski
Nearly 20 years after an influx of non-North American players hit the NHL, we may soon be experiencing an influx of overseas-based ownership. Russia's Pravda (growing up during the Reagan era, I never dreamed I'd be getting news alerts from Pravda--unless we lost a war or something) is reporting that Roman Abramovich, the Governor of Chukotka in far eastern Siberia, is lining up his finances to buy the Vancouver Canucks from current owner John McCaw. This follows his purchase of the Chelsea Football Club in England, a move that conjured up a good bit of controversy.

Like any major pro team sale, this one would have to get league approval, so nothing is really settled. If this is all true, it'll be fun to watch what happens, both from the league and the media/public reaction.

The knee-jerk reaction is that such a purchase is some sort of hijacking of the sport. Despite the long tenure of ownership by American John McCaw (not to mention the fairly recent purchase of the Montreal Canadiens by American George Gillette), I'm sure many a British Columbian, and most Canadians, will be aghast at a foreign (more foreign than Yanks) owner taking over an NHL club. No doubt, speculation will start on the Canucks becoming an all-Russian squad, even a farm team for the Russian Elite League (perhaps aided by recent comments from ex-NHLer, and current chairman of Russia's State Sports Committee, Slava Fetisov).

It's a pretty provincial attitude, but only time will assuage such feelings. If the Canucks were to win it all under the proposed Abramovich ownership, I'd think any negative feelings about him (in Vancouver, at least) would dissipate.