Russia's KHL to add first Swedish team, Stockholm's AIK

In a development that had been speculated about for some time, it appears that Russia's Kontinental Hockey League is set to admit its first Swedish club, Stockholm's AIK (a club with a long and storied history), for the 2010-11 season.

This from a statement on the KHL website (updated with the league's own translation):

On November, 19 KHL and Stockholm club AIK signed the Letter of Intent to cooperate in development and popularization of hockey. The Protocol announces the invitation from KHL to AIK Hockey Club to become member of the KHL, and join the League’s Championship beginning from the 2010-2011 season provided the Club observes all the terms and conditions, and meets all KHL admission criteria.

Then there's this, from the Swedish site Expressen, which indicates that the deal is not quite complete:

AIK Hockey can be a part of an extended Russian-compatible. The Premier Division club have accepted an invitation to become part of the KHL. Now it's up to the club members and Swedish nba which must give its approval to the invitation you received to become a reality. Club writes on his website that called for a membership meeting to vote on the matter.

Swedish blogger Christoffer Larssen says that while AIK isn't a KHL-caliber club at this time, they have a potential advantage when it comes to attracting talent from North America:

Sure, they will tangle in the bottom of the first two years. But you can't actually go out of the league [they wouldn't be at risk of relegation, which is common in European sports]. AIK will eventually get a better economy and attract more good players from the NHL. What would you choose, AIK [in] Stockholm, Sweden or Amur Khabarovsk in eastern Russia?

That's a great point; especially for Americans and Canadians who don't speak Russian, Sweden can be an attractive place to play. I've been there a few times on business, and you can get by quite easily there, as most people speak excellent English and are happy to do so. Stockholm's just a fantastic city .

Does this mark a step towards increasing the KHL's rivalry with the NHL? Does Gary Bettman need to consider admitting a team like Modo? Hey, it would provide a quick means of getting Peter Forsberg back in the fold...

For more about the rise of the KHL, read on about how the league uses Russian government support to compete financially, and tries to lock up teenagers with long-term contracts to prevent them leaving for North America.

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