Before I left for Moscow, I was worried that I would miss out on my beloved NHL hockey. However, I was excited for the chance to actually go to some KHL games instead. For those of you don’t know what it is, the KHL is the Kontinental Hockey League ( Континентальная хоккейная лига), aka the world’s second best league and the brainchild of Alexander Medvedev, the head of Russia’s Gazprom. I was a bit skeptical of the KHL because, quite frankly, you have career minor leaguers and hockey journeymen tear it up in Russia. Despite that, the two games I’ve attended so far provided some quality hockey, and the tickets are extremely cheap!
My ‘home’ team, if you can call it that, is Dynamo Moscow, also known as the team where the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin plied his trade as a youngster. The reason why I call Dynamo my ‘home team’ is simply because I a) can’t figure out where CSKA Moscow plays and b) I was told tickets are cheaper for the former. Admittedly, this is a cop out of sorts, but Dynamo just seems like the team I’d prefer to support. They play in the southern part of Moscow (off of the red metro line; Sportivnaya is the station that’s the closest) in the Luzhniki sports park, so the team is kind of outside of Moscow proper. Regardless of that, the stadium is very comfy. It’s pushing 60 years old, but it can fit 8,000 spectators in an intimate setting. Heck, the atmosphere genuinely outdoes Washington’s Verizon Center; of course, having the Dynamo ultras in their section never hurts when talking about noise.
Some interesting tidbits I can think of is how you buy tickets at the booths, which happen to be outside of the park and a few minutes’ walk to the rink. Compared with Washington Caps’ games where you can buy tickets inside the stadium, it’s been throwing me off. I shamelessly admit that the Latvian guy I ran into before the Dynamo Mosco-Dinamo Riga game had to buy mine for me. I also admit that I initially walked past the booth only to run back to it, cursing myself for being an idiot and missing it. Reminder that if you’re running late and happen to go by the innocent-looking ticket booth, you’re going to have a bad time. This leads me to talk about the tickets: they’re dirt cheap. Seriously, the two games I’ve been two I’ve paid a combined $13 for two tickets. Now, you may be thinking that these prices must mean that the seats are bad, right? Nope, there’s none of that. I’ve been probably less than 100 feet away from the rink-I absolutely get my bang for the buck. The last observation is about the cheerleaders. As I hear the groans of me ogling the girls, yes, I admit I have looked at them a bit longer than I should have. However, I will go on record as saying that they changed their outfits for the start of every period. It’s just an observation that I thought was interesting, as you hardly ever see things like that in North America.
Now, on to the big question: how is the hockey? I was admittedly a bit surprised, as it’s a better quality than I initially believed. As mentioned earlier, the fact that North American minor leaguers who are marginal NHLers can amass plenty of points here was something that made me wary. However, there are some genuine stars in the KHL, and they do bring out the best in their teammates. Personally, it was a blast seeing how much passing and skill was involved. It’s really obvious that the bigger ice brings out the best in some players, much to the fans’ delight. Don’t confuse this as me saying that I’m necessarily missing the fights and big hits seen back home, but the fast pace of what I’ve seen so far is thrilling. Case in point: the powerplays are infinitely better. Dynamo, Dinamo Riga, and Jokerit Helsinki may not have capitalized on their powerplays, but the hectic madness of their chances had me standing in my seat, biting my nails. For purists who want to see smart hockey, you’d love these games!
To conclude this post, I would say that if you’re in Moscow (or Russia, in general), you need to see a KHL game. The allure of cheap tickets (most expensive one I’ve seen is about $50, and you’re right behind the benches) plus quality hockey is a must see!