KHL is Natural; Esche’s Stardom? Not So Much

Every few months, I tend to think the KHL is making inroads into eventually overtaking the NHL. Yesterday’s reported signing of Nik Zherdev is a blow to the NHL in that if Zherdev didn’t have the KHL out, he probably would have worked harder on his NHL game. Zherdev might not ever reach his full potential in the KHL, but if he does, we’ll miss it here in North America.

But the fact that the KHL is using journeyman goalie Robert Esche as the centerpiece of a publicity campaign makes me think the NHL really has nothing to fear.

Nothing against Esche, of course, but he’s hardly a household name. When people think of quality NHL goaltending, I’m not sure he’s one of the first 10 or 20 names people flip to. He’s a solid goalie, but not the kind I would build a marketing campaign around.

But even if the KHL isn’t a real threat to the NHL, it still serves a purpose. I like that it gives players options. Esche didn’t want to be an NHL backup, so he gets to be a star overseas. It’s like when American baseball players go to Japan. We’ve always seen some degree of international movement in sports, especially with older players trying to extend their careers. It seems for the most part (Sergei Zubov, Jaromir Jagr) the KHL is just the natural continuation of that trend.

But seriously. The KHL might need to invest in a course on how to promote. Those Esche stills look like outtakes from a Japanese cereal commercial/game show.

Robert Esche's KHL Commercial

Also, totally unrelated, but Don Brennan has the line of the week on his blog.