The fall-out from the tragic arena collapse that killed one worker in St. Petersburg, Russia may have stunning ramifications at the highest ends of power in the KHL. According to a high-placed source, SKA-St. Petersburg president Gennady Timchenko may lose one or both of two incredibly important posts due to the accident. Not only could he lose the SKA presidency, but also his position as chairman of the KHL’s Board of Governors, in a decision that goes all the way to the top: Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Timchenko may keep a seat on the board and is not expected to face criminal charges in the death of Matvey Kucherov (it’s believed investigators are looking more closely at the construction company and employees involved in the actual demolition), but the consequences for his part in the disaster look to be serious.
While the SKA-St. Petersburg hockey team is owned by giant state-owned Russian corporation Gazprom, the company in charge of the new arena project - confusingly named SKA Arena LLC - is not affiliated with the franchise or Gazprom itself. Timchenko, however, is the project owner of SKA Arena LLC and really pushed for that company to be in charge of the new rink’s construction, which was touted to be the largest hockey arena in the world upon completion.
The loss of his major titles would be a huge blow for Timchenko, a man whose profile was so high in Russia that he was featured on the fold-out cover of The Hockey News’ 2019 Money and Power issue. SKA-St. Petersburg is the jewel franchise of the KHL and a favorite of President Putin, who was born and raised in the city. The expectation is that the new president of the team will be Roman Rotenberg, who currently serves as the first vice-president and GM of Russian Hockey. Rotenberg is also the current vice-president of SKA-St. Petersburg, presiding over two Gagarin Cup championships. In his role with Russian Hockey, he has won an Olympic gold medal and four medals at the World Championship.
All of this comes during a tumultuous time for the power dynamics in the KHL, as now-former league president Dmitry Chernyshenko was recently named a deputy prime minister in Putin’s cabinet. Alexei Morozov, the former Pittsburgh Penguins right winger and current head of the KHL’s junior league (the MHL), has been cited by Russian media as a possible successor, but right now there is a power vacuum that needs to be filled - and the Timchenko affair brings another layer of intrigue to proceedings.
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