HC Dynamo Moscow isn’t the first KHL team to fold up this season, but it is the most significant. For fans, news that the Moscow team in the Bobrov Division in the Kontinental Hockey League is merging with HC MVD is heartbreaking.
“In Russia, they’re probably the same as Montreal – it’s a historic team, a great organization,” Alex Ovechkin said. “I can’t believe there’s going to be no more Dynamo. It’s too bad.”
Ovechkin is just one of several notable NHLers who spent time with HC Dynamo Moscow. Sergei Gonchar, Alexei Kovalev, Viktor Kozlov, and others also played for the club.
HC Moscow Dynamo came into existence in 1946. The team has won nine national titles, two Spengler Cups and one IIHF European Champions Cup. They are one of the most elite teams in Russian hockey history.
Dmitry Chesnokov, a Russian journalist working with Yahoo!, first broke the story earlier this week. News of the team’s financial condition and the resulting merger hit the Russian fans hard, but the team has been sliding downhill for months. With a disappointing post-season performance, several of the team’s top players were sent away and the entire coaching staff was fired at season’s end.
Dynamo captain and two time NHL All-Star Alexei Zhitnik told Chesnokov that the team’s players were sent away with instructions to “stay in touch” with respect to what was going to happen.
So what was the key problem?
“Hockey in Russia is not business but is more of a social program,” explains Chesnokov. “People pay between $5 and $20 to see a game. The bulk of the money comes from sponsorships. And Dynamo’s sponsors decided not to invest in the team anymore. Dynamo’s revenues cannot sustain the expenses the team has. As strange as it sounds, the oldest club in Russia does not even have its own arena.”
Chesnokov believes that the structure of the KHL can leave key franchises out in the open. “The KHL is different from the NHL in that the league does not represent individual clubs, the league doesn’t really have an interest in keeping certain clubs in the league. If a club goes under, so be it. That’s the philosophy,” he said.
There is also the possibility that HC Moscow Dynamo won’t merge with HC MVD. This is largely due to HC MVD’s success in the post-season, as they continue to compete for the Gagarin Cup against AK Bars Kazan. Unfortunately, if the merger doesn’t go through, HC Moscow Dynamo could just disappear.
For the fans, there’s a sliver of optimism as they look for answers. For Chesnokov, the glory days of HC Moscow Dynamo are finished. “The talk is to try and save the brand, but it is proving to be impossible,” Chesnokov said. “A Dynamo-MVD team is not Dynamo. It is a new team with new rules and traditions. The logo will change. The brand is as good as dead.”
Posted by Jordan Richardson.