Imagine the following - your local Senator, in a bid to bolster America's soccer leagues in advance of the US potentially hosting the World Cup, proposes that professionals should be made exempt from Federal income taxes, and that every effort should be made to support professional teams and allow them to sign top international stars to compete on US soil. All this, during one of the worst economic downturns in living memory.
What do you think the reaction would be among his constituents? I'm guessing that it would be more tempestuous than these health care town-hall meetings, that's for sure.
But in Russia, that's exactly what's going on in the world of hockey. Facing a 7% contraction in GDP this year (far greater than the US will endure), they've taken just such measures to bring NHL talent over to the KHL.
So why is it that ordinary Russians are so willing to go along with such plans? Simply put, with the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi, international prestige ranks high on the list of priorities for political and business leaders there, and the populace isn't likely to challenge that view.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Harvard professor Richard Pipes, in "Pride and Power", surveys the political and economic landscape throughout the former superpower, and finds nostalgia for the imperial Soviet era, along with a desire for order that transcends Western priorities like transparency of government, and the rule of law:
...during their 1,000-year old history of statehood, the Russians have virtually never been given the opportunity to elect their government or to influence its actions. As a result of this experience, they have become thoroughly depoliticized.
It's a truly fine read, and helps to put in perspective why the KHL is so aggressive in their bid to obtain top talent from North America. It should also help inform the NHL and player agents about sensitivites felt throughout Russia, as the question of whether the NHL will participate in the 2014 Games has yet to be addressed.