Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Recurring KHL Story

It seems to pop up at least once during the hockey season and almost always in the off-season, but the annual announcement that the KHL's Slovan Bratislava team is in financial trouble has resurfaced yet again. The Slovakian hockey club always seems to have rumours swirling around it regarding meeting payroll during the season only to move into will-they-or-won't-they-play-next-season territory after the Gagarin Cup has been awarded. Well, it's May 15, so we're into the latter option that seems to suggest that they won't play in the KHL next year.

According to a Sport Express story filed yesterday, they report that "there is a high probability" HC Slovan Bratislava will not take part in the 2019-20 KHL season after a new owner who had bought into the club "found the team funding too expensive". While nothing regarding the club's status will be decided until the KHL's Board of Directors meet on May 29, it seems all but certain that Bratislava may have finally used up the remaining lives it seemed to have.

HC Slovan Bratislava was accepted into the KHL in 2012 for the start of the 2012-13 season. During that campaign, it was apparent that HC Slovan Bratislava wasn't going to be a big spender in any season despite their early successes in the KHL. In that season, they were the 13th-best team in the KHL despite being 27th-overall in spending on payroll. While they may have "Moneyball-ed" their way into the playoffs that year, the money issues were catching up to the overall hockey performance on the ice.

In 2016, reported that HC Slovan Bratislava hadn't been paying its players as they struggled to meet payroll obligations. Players had discussed the possibility of not playing the games scheduled until they were paid, but they did play as payroll obligations were met despite the pay for some players being extremely overdue.

There was talk early this year of a new European league starting, and I suggested that HC Slovan Bratislava might be wise to keep an eye on this possibility where costs and expenses would be lower. I had mentioned that their history in the KHL included qualifying "for the playoffs only twice and were swept in the quarterfinals on both occasions. In their seventh season this year, they are dead last in the Western Conference, 17 points back of Vityaz, and" missed the playoffs for a third-straight year. Needless to say, missing out on playoff payoffs doesn't help the bottom line.

Of course, Slovan Bratislava issued a statement that denied all reports of them not being a part of the KHL next season, but one can only wonder how long the KHL is willing to stand by the Slovakian club while they pile up the losses in the standings and at the bottom line.

At this point, the question may not be if Slovan Bratislava leaves the KHL, but when.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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