Last week I went to a San Jose Earthquakes game as part of a work event. As any European, I'm also a big soccer fan, although hockey completely took over once I moved to the States about a decade ago. The level of soccer competition just isn't great in the MLS. I felt the same way about the level of hockey competition when I was living in England.
But back to my experience. I may offend some loyal fans that go to these soccer games and faithfully support the team and the the league with what I'll write next, but I will anyway. What an odd show these Earthquakes are, and the MLS in general. The arena, Buck Shaw Stadium, was the most uncomfortable I've ever been at. There is no leg room whatsoever. There are no high stands. While it's nice to sit close to the action, and hear players curse, I'm used to appreciating the game from high up on the stands where one can see the game develop better. Parking was a joke too. Earthquakes play on Santa Clara University's campus, and as with any college campus, there aren't any good parking spots nearby without paying at least $15. There was no big screen to watch the replays on. And the worst part-- the commercialization of the game with constant giveaways, half time contests, and the worst of them all - "first kick" (like first pitch in baseball). I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. For a European, this was a cultural shock to experience something of this nature at a soccer game.
If you're still with me, you may be asking yourself, where am I going with this. Sitting there in amazement at what MLS is trying to do to the Beautiful Game, I started thinking about the contrast of watching live hockey in Russia versus watching live NHL games. This is a question I get a lot from fellow hockey fans at HP Pavilion when they find out I'm Russian, or here in FTF comments section. If you're a North American fan who is used to going to NHL games, you'll likely have the same cultural shock I had at an MLS soccer game if you go to a KHL hockey game. Ever since I started going to NHL games, I get bored and sometimes frustrated at hockey games in Russia. However, my experience is based on going to hockey games in Moscow, and your experience may vary if you attend a game in Sweden or Germany. I can't speak for those and will only compare NHL and KHL. But with that, here are some of the things I love about NHL that I miss while attending games in Russia.
1. Uniforms. This is perhaps the biggest pet peeve I have about KHL and European hockey in general. Compare this outfit that looks like it belongs in the circus for a KHL powerhouse AK Bars (on the left) versus old traditional Montreal Canadiens jerseys. European teams in general do not get as much money from TV contracts and sponsor deals as NHL clubs. Instead, they're trying to generate money from putting sponsor logos on the jerseys. In my mind, I hate how these jerseys look after they put 10 different random logos on them. I never wanted to own a KHL jersey for that main reason.