As we all know, Ilya Kovalchuk left for Russia this week. Reading some of the stuff on the internet, this has led again to an anti-Russian bias. First Alexander Radulov, then Kovalchuk, who's next? Pretty soon Russians are going to be leaving left, right, and centre (and defense, and goaltending).
First of all, I don't think that's true. Some Russians will want to leave. Some won't. That's just the nature of it. It's hard to compare, because Russia is the only country with a league that will pay through the nose for homegrown talent. Would young Swedes stick in Sweden (or return) if they were being offered $15 million? I imagine some wouldn't, but I can also imagine some would. It's hard to look at Canadians and Americans, because for the most part they stay close to home. At most a few hours' plane ride away from home. There's no comparable there. If money's part of your motivation, then I can see why being close to home and making more money is preferable to better competition. Again, not for everybody. After all, Alex Ovechkin would get PAID in Russia. We're talking $30 million a year. But he's stayed in Washington. Semin stayed in the NHL when analysts, ex-teammates, and GMs were all talking about his complete lack of effort. Hell, Alex Kovalev came back to play for Florida even though he for sure would've got more for staying in Russia.
Pretty much, some Russians are motivated by competition or the Stanley Cup, and some are more motivated by family, country, and money. I'm sure that's true of all NHL players. It's just that none of them have the option of getting paid in Russia. Russians are the only ones with a temptation to give into that way.
Russians draft picks also seem to get a lot of hate, for cases like Evgeny Kuznetsov. For those who don't know, Washington drafted him 26th overall in 2010, and as of yet he has yet to come to North America. Now let's get something straight - for most draft picks, the team never talks to them before drafting them. They simply pick a name. So for a bunch of these young, promising Russians, they've probably given no intent of wanting to come to the NHL. Why do we assume they'd like to leave family, home, and money behind to simply come play rookie minutes in the NHL? Or worse yet, get demoted to the AHL? Like I said before, there are motivators besides simply "best competition in the world." And for a guy like Kuznetsov, staying in Russia also gets him a much better shot at playing for the Russian national team at the next Olympics. Is that not motivation?
I think there should perhaps be some care taken with drafting Russians because they have the ability to stay home more than pretty much any other nationality. But, this isn't because of character flaws. It's someone saying, "I'd rather make 5 times as much money and stay at home and be more important to my team and be more likely to play for my country." That sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.
And when people bring up the idea of Russians being motivated by money, how is that any different from the fact that we had a lockout this past year? Why is it different when Russian players go back to Russia to make more compared to when American billionaires refuse to let NHL hockey happen to make more? Or when a player takes off for somewhere that will offer him more money? Money is as much a part of the game for everyone else as compared to Russians.
So I guess I kind of agree that Russians are probably less likely to stick in the NHL than player of other nationalities. But this is not due to any sort of character flaw in Russians. It's simply due to them having an opportunity that no one else does.
This is also a much more open-minded and critical-thinking hockey blog than most I've seen, so I thought I'd also throw it out to all of you. Am I out to lunch? Am I even being too harsh on Russians? I'm curious.