By Stu Hackel
Let’s take a break from lockout news — or non-news — and skate around to where hockey is actually being played.
Attendance is apparently booming in the KHL with the arrival of so many locked out NHL players. And as the impasse continues, another wave of players signing contracts with European clubs seems possible.
One of the most intriguing KHL signings was by Alex Ovechkin’s Dynamo Moscow on Monday: Ovie’s center on the Washington Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom. In fact, it was Ovechkin who recruited Backstrom by phoning him regularly to urge him to sign with Dynamo.
Here’s a photo of Ovie and Backie at the Dynamo offices from Allhockey.ru with Backstrom dressed in a Dynamo shirt.
Their old chemistry paid off immediately on Monday against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, won 3-0 by Dynamo, with Backstrom setting up Ovechkin for a power play goal.
That contest matched the top two teams in the KHL’s Western Conference. Dynamo led the Bobrov Division by two points over Ilya Kovalchuk’s SKA St. Petersburg club coming into this game while the rebuilt Loko sat atop the Tarasov Division, three points ahead of CSKA (the Red Army club, with Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Radulov and Ilya Bryzgalov).
Backstrom caused something of a stir when he chose to wear 99 as his jersey number, which hockey fans always associate with Wayne Gretzky. Unlike the NHL, the KHL has not retired that number and, as Backstrom told Sovietsky Sport, he selected it “Because I had a 9 in my 19 and 19 was taken and then I didn’t like the other numbers so 99 was the only one.”