Edinburgh Capitals co-owner Scott Neil has played down talk of Russian financial investment in the club following comments made in a recent interview by top-scoring forward Pavel Vorobyev.
Vorobyev, a former NHL star with the Chicago Blackhawks, spent ten years playing at the highest level in Russia prior to signing with Edinburgh last summer.
When asked by Russian website Sport-Express to describe the level of professionalism at Edinburgh, Vorobyev criticised long bus journeys on match days, plus a lack of training opportunities or organised pre-game team meals. He said: “We aren’t a rich club, but now the team is getting helped by Russian investors and probably the situation will change.”
In an exciting time for Capitals fans, Ukrainian former NHL all-star Dmitri Khristich has been appointed as new head coach. Khristich has quickly appointed friends, and fellow former NHL stars, Darius Kasparaitis and Andrei Nikolishin as assistants in his recruitment process. Caps have also released details of a new partnership with top Russian junior hockey school AK Bars Acadamy.
When asked about Vorobyev’s comments on Russian investment, Caps chief Neil said: “This all started when we spoke with a Russian sports agency, who were interested in bringing more Russian players over (to teams in Britain and western Europe).
“We’re receiving help from them with our marketing and player agency support.”
When asked if that support extended to financial backing, Neil said: “No. As we start to see season-ticket money come in we might manage a small increase to our player budget this year, but we are expecting no kind of significant increase.”
There also would appear no financial aspect to the tie-up with AK Bars Acadamy, as Neil continued: “It’s purely hockey development. They are trying to promote their hockey programmes to the British market. For example, British kids travel to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Canada for training camps and AK Bars want to show us what they can provide over there. We are trying to organise some of their coaches to come over to our camps later in the year.”
Vorobyev’s interview – translated from Russian – which appears on the North American ice hockey website TheHockeyWriters.com, has ruffled a few feathers amongst British ice hockey fans. However, the Edinburgh faithful – in the main – appear to accept it as an honest appraisal of life as a Capital.
In the interview, he levels criticism at Murrayfield ice rink, team training times, and the fact that the club are not fully professional. He also said that Britain is some way off producing a player good enough to play in the Kontinental Hockey League, describing development as one in “an embryonic state”. He was also asked why more Russian players were not invited to play in the Elite League, to which Vorobyev said: “I also wonder the same. I try to talk about it with agents. Some say that Russian players are unreliable as they can start drinking ... The club admitted they were taking a risk by offering me a contract but, after last season, they realised that I wouldn’t let them down.”
It is also important to note the 35-year-old said he enjoys life in Scotland while praising the Capitals fans. Vorobyev will return for a second year with the club after recently extending his contract.
Neil refused to criticise his players comments, saying: “To be fair to Pavel, he’s come from a totally different background. Our British guys aren’t fully professional and in terms of how we travel, when we play down south, we pretty much do what every other team in the league does, and that’s stop at motorway services on the way down.
“He’s come from an environment where teams fly to away games and arrive a night or even two nights before it, and obviously that’s not practical for us or other teams in the UK.
“The KHL and NHL are a million miles away from where we are right now. We’d love to be in a position to accommodate guys the same way they do. The aspirations of the Elite League are clear, and we are becoming more professional year-on-year. And, as far as Edinburgh are concerned, we’d love to put a fully professional team out on the ice. That’s what we aspire to, but we’re not there yet.”