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3 Sep, 2007 19:05

Ice Hockey: Superleague lures NHL star home

Ice Hockey's new Russian Superleague season starts on Tuesday. Metallurg Magnitogorsk won it last year, but three-times champions Lokomotiv have high hopes of reclaiming the title this time. And the optimism is down to their latest signing from the NHL&n

Yashin is not the first and probably not the last Russian to return from North America. He sees the future in bright colours for the Superleague.

“It’s a different league, but I think it has grown up, especially in the last two or three years, after the lockout when a lot of supestars came to play in the Russian league. A lot of Russian players left to come home and play for Russian fans, and I think it’s great,” Yashin says.

The first wave of repatriates came two years ago during the lockout at the National Hockey League. Aleksey Yashin was amomg them, eager to get a taste of the modern Superleague. Many non-Russian NHL players also chose to play in this country during the lockout. The result – the Superleague has become the first choice, not only of Europeans but for many North Americans too.  U.S. player Randy Robitaille was signed by Lokomotiv in mid-May.

“Obviously everyone knows NHL is the best league in the world. It gets lots of exposure, lots of TV. When I was a young boy growing up, the NHL was everything. I think the Russian Superleague just needs time. Every year they’re going to get more NHL players.  Maybe in a few years more players will come and make it more prestigious,” said Robitaille.

It looks like there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming season. More and more Russian players are returning home. However, as in the past, the majority of talented young Russians aspire to play in the NHL.

Only time will tell whether the repatriates will bring back the glory days to Russian hockey.