The NHL is expanding its reach into Russia through a new streaming agreement that’s set to make every regular-season and playoff game available in the country.
The league reached an agreement with Yandex that will more than triple the number of games available to fans in Russia. Staging a game in Russia remains a possibility in the coming years.
“It’s a game-changer for us,” NHL executive vice president of international and media strategy David Proper said Wednesday. “We’re more than dipping our toe into the market.”
The NHL’s previous agreement called for 15 games per week to be broadcast in Russia. That gave a window into the league and its Russian stars, such as Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Nikita Kucherov and Vladimir Tarasenko, but the long-term goal is to create not just more fans but also another generation of players.
Citing agreements in other countries with established pro leagues, Proper said the NHL is not trying to cut into the KHL’s market but rather help the Russian-based league with more exposure.
“If things go really well, it rises all boats because people become hockey fans,” Proper said. “For the most part, they’re not on at the same times as KHL games, so this gives us the opportunity to show how great Russian players are, and maybe, hopefully, that in some way helps just the overall growth of hockey in the market.”