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Phil Esposito Considering Opportunity with KHL Amidst Ongoing NHL Labor Uncertainty

September 4th, 2012 at 2:53 AM
By Kyle Alexander Abney

Tampa Bay Lightning founder and current radio color commentator Phil Esposito is reportedly mulling over an offer to take a more active role in hockey operations.

It just won't be with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team he founded in 1992, with the NHL or even in North America.

The relatively young KHL, based in Russia but expanding rapidly in Europe as the only international challenge to the NHL as a truly elite hockey league, stands to gain much from the looming NHL lockout and is apparently wooing Esposito to help the league's development in some as of yet unknown capacity.

In past lockouts, particularly in 2004-2005, premiere NHL player talent moved to European leagues including the Russian SuperLeague, the precursor to the KHL.

Adding Esposito as a potential special advisor or assistant to KHL president Alex Medvedev would certainly be a coup in what may be a critical time in the power struggle for viewership between the world's two dominant hockey leagues.

While it's highly unlikely the North American audience would ever be convinced to switch their allegiance from NHL to KHL even amidst what could be the third lockout since the mid-90s, the KHL presents a serious challenge to the NHL's global domination of what is very much a global sport.

If Esposito were to accept the offer, the NHL stands to lose a strong voice and proponent for the game.

The Lightning, however, would lose their founder and the man enshrined outside of the Tampa Bay Times forum late last year.

While the timing may be simply coincidental, it is hard not to wonder if an Esposito "defection" would be just the latest casualty of the ongoing NHL labor dispute.

Tags: Hockey, KHL, NHL, Phil Esposito, Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Lightning

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