Sunday, 9 September 2018

KHL Board Remains Unchanged

Gennady Timchenko, pictured to the left, has been the man in the big chair at the end of the table for the KHL Board of Directors since 2012. Timchenko is a billionaire businessman who oversees various Russian businesses including gas company Novatek and petrochemical producer Sibur Holding. It should also be noted that he is a very close friend of Vladimir Putin, and he currently serves as the president of the SKA St. Petersburg club. Needless to say, Timchenko's business ties, his personal relationship with the man running Russia, and his stake in the KHL's most powerful club have all led to to his unanimously re-election as President of the Board of Directors of the KHL today.

Political ties aside, Timchenko has overseen the expansion of the KHL to Finland and China with Jokerit (a team of which Timchenko owns a portion) and Kunlun Red Star making good progress as additions to the league. The KHL's marketing and reach has expanded in the country and into Europe as games will be played in neutral sites such as Zurich and Vienna. He has lobbied for Russian players to return home to Russia to play hockey, including the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Nail Yakupov. He has successfully watched the KHL All-Star Game grow from a best-vs-best for just the men to include both the junior Russian league and the women's league. In short, Timchenko has been a vital part of the KHL's success over the last few years.

Timchenko isn't your usual Russian oligarch, though. He was born in Armenia in 1952 as the son of a Soviet military officer, and he grew up in Ukraine and East Germany. In 1976 after graduating from Leningrad Mechanical University with a degree in Enginieering, Timchenko began working at Izhorsk Plants which built nuclear power reactors in St. Petersburg. His aspirations continued to push him higher and, after eight years at Izhorsk, he joined the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Trade where he became deputy head of Kirishineftekhimexport, a state exporter of oil products to the West in 1988, at the age of 36. With his connections within government growing, Timchenko began investing in companies with partners, and his massive wealth grow for the next thirty years as he bought, sold, and absorbed various businesses under his watch. Some of the lesser-known business ventures for Timchenko include growing apples and producing bottled water in Russia.

Closer to home, Timchenko is leading the way in building what he has claimed will be the largest hockey facility in the world. According to reports, the new arena will have a capacity of 22,500 - some 1300 seats bigger than the Bell Centre in Montreal - and it should put St. Petersburg in the running to host the 2023 IIHF Men's World Hockey Championship. The cost for this little endeavour by Timchenko will set him back by about 20 billion rubles ($295 million USD), hardly scraping the estimated $18.1 billion USD he's figured to be worth. This comes just two years after Timchenko saw a project through to completion for SKA St. Petersburg's training facility in the Nevskiy District of the city.

Needless to say, there was a significant SKA St. Petersburg/CSKA Moscow flavor to the recent 2018 Russian Olympic team entry at the Pyeongchang Olympics, and with NHL players not participating the Russian squad found a way to win gold after not medalling since 2002. The reaction back home was excitement among Putin and his peers - Timchenko included - as they erased the memory of the failure in Sochi with this squad, and subsequently let the world know that Russian hockey was back atop the Olympic mountain. While it remains to be seen if this "progress" will continue once the rest of the world has their NHL players back on their squads, there was no shortage of celebration for Russian hockey after Pyeongchang's Olympiad was over.

Timchenko's reign as the President of the Board has looked favourably upon him thus far.

Today's meeting where Timchenko was re-elected as the President was highlighted by more money being invested in players as additional insurance will be provided for the life and health of hockey players. There will be ongoing monetary support for the development of children's and youth hockey programs through the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, and the KHL will continue to provide assistance of some sort to hockey veterans of the Federation. The KHL also committed to funding additional anti-doping measures for the 2018-19 season which should please the IIHF and the IOC immensely. The Board of directors also discussed changes regarding the distribution of TV monies among member clubs. There was no description of what these changes would be made and which teams would be affected, but one would hope that the teams who need an injection of cash are getting the help they require to stay afloat.

Among some of the bigger events discussed among the Directors included the Sledge Hockey Continent Cup which will be played in Sochi in May 2019, the KHL World Games featuring KHL teams playing in Vienna and Zurich, and the 2019 Week of Hockey Stars to be held in Nizhnekamsk, Kazan, and Almetyevsk. Also added into the discussion was the finalized version of the KHL Referees Electronic Medical Portal, an online portal of the officials where the health status of KHL referees can be contained with access to quickly monitor and analyze the results of KHL referees' examinations.

In other words, Timchenko and the Board of Directors seem to have this KHL thing rolling.

Whatever the case may be, the KHL is on better footing than it was when Alexander Medvedev was running the show. While there are still concerns that must be addressed, Timchenko's leadership at the top of Russia's hockey league has been noticeable. And while the US still holds sanctions against him and his businesses, it seems that business has never been stronger under him in the KHL as it is now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: