The NHL lockout has had a positive impact on the development of the KHL, legendary Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov told R-Sport Monday.
The NHL lockout was declared last month with the league and the players’ association failing to agree terms on a collective contract.
Since then, many NHL players including last season’s league MVP Evgeni Malkin, first overall draft picks Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin and Nail Yakupov, as well as two-time Stanley Cup winner Pavel Datsyuk have joined various teams in the KHL.
"The lockout in the NHL, without a doubt, will benefit the KHL,” Tikhonov said.
“This is already evident from the attendance at games, which have become more intense than before the NHL players arrived.”
“The guys who came from the NHL have strengthened the teams they play for today. Certainly, the audience interest in the KHL games has increased due to the arrival of NHL players."
Tikhonov said it is too early to judge whether the attendances would decrease if the lockout ends, admitting that “maybe there will be a decline.”
Viktor Tikhonov, as coach, won 14 Soviet titles with CSKA Moscow and became three-time Olympic champion in 1984, 1988 and 1992, also getting gold in eight world championships between 1978 and 1990.
His grandson, also named Viktor Tikhonov, is currently playing for SKA St. Petersburg.