Avangard vs. Vityaz: the Bloodiest Rivalry in Hockey Escalates


Darcy the Fighter (photo via KP.ru)

UPDATE 12/11, 3PM: Suspensions have been doled out. Belokon has been suspended for 13 games, Verot for 12, Gratton for 15, and Larin for 13. Avangard will pay 100k RUR (3.3k USD) to the KHL, and Vityaz will pay 400k RUR (13k USD). Justice is served. Go about your day, citizen.

Editor’s note- Fedor is a total fanboy for Avangard. This is not dispassionate reporting.

We’ve written before about the Avangard-Vityaz rivalry and how it all started back in ’09. After almost two years and two fight-ful games, 12/10/10 begins a new era in the rivalry. For the newbies, here’s a little background:

  • Vityaz Chekhov (stars: ex-Cap Chris Simon, ex-Bear Brandon Sugden, ex-Cap Darcy Verot, Josh Gratton) is the toughest team in the KHL, full of provokers and shameless punks. They were rumored to have signed the legendary Chris Chelios a few weeks ago. They are dead last in the West– 8 points behind the next spot, 17 points out of the playoffs. Their coach is the best Russian fighter in the NHL history, Andrei Nazarov.
  • Avangard Omsk Region (stars: ex-Cap Jaromir Jagr, Martin Skoula, Marek Svatos, Kari Ramo) is one of the most successful and richest teams in the league.  They are currently fifth in the East.

How is this fight unlike its predecessors? For the first time, one team didn’t fight at all, the Hawks (Avangard’s nickname) were simply pummeled by the Vityazes (Vityaz is a Russian knight). Vityaz started their thugs (Verot, Simon, Sugden, Gratton) and sent them after Avangard immediately following the opening face off.

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Russian fans are very, very passionate about hockey. If you need proof, look no further than the buildup for the upcoming KHL game between heated-rivals Avangard Omsk and Vityaz Chekhov. Avangard’s best player is former DC malcontent Jaromir Jagr, while Vityaz – known more for its boxing than hockey skill – has former Caps Brandon Sugden, Chris Simon, and Darcy Verot filling out their ranks.

The team’s beefs with each other have been simmering for a while now, stemming from one sad event. During the 2008-09 KHL season, Avangard’s Alexei Cherepanov passed out on the bench during a game against Vityaz in Chekhov. He later died. The cause of his death filled headlines in Russia for years, with both teams getting their fair share of the blame. Wikipedia’s wordy explanation is the most fair:

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Caps in Russia: Updates on Kozlov, Fedorov, Zednik, Jagr & More

Richard Zednik and Chris Simon chat during a KHL Game

We Miss You, Sergei.

We Miss You, Sergei.

We finally have another update from Fedor Fedin. It’s been awhile, but it’s for good reason. Since the KHL is about to wrap up the first half of it’s current season, we  gave Fedor the tall task of tracking down every KHL player with any Washington Capital ties and asked him to let us know how they’ve been doing – good or bad.  So basically if a guy has played for the Capitals in the past (Andrei Nikolishin), played on one of our AHL Affiliated Teams (Brandon Sugden), or been drafted by the team (Dmitri Orlov), they’re on the list.  We thought this was a good idea because we honestly miss some of our favorite erstwhile Caps from the past like: Viktor Kozlov, Sergei Fedorov, Richard Zednik, and Chris Simon, and thought this would be a great opportunity for everyone to get caught up.  Sadly, that human-ball-of-waste known as Jaromir Jagr is on the list, too, but since he’s one of Fedor’s favorite players on Avangard Omsk, we’re going to let it slide.

Anyways, below the fold is a huge table full of stats and information on all the Former Caps in the KHL.

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Do The Caps Need An Enforcer? Russian Machine Says Sorta

It’s a question that was posed on Capitals Insider last week and last time I checked 60% were against and 40% for it. Well call me Don Cherry but I happen to be part of the 40% who are still fans of “olde time” hockey.

To me, fighting is as much a part of the game as still calling jerseys “sweaters”. Fighting serves its purpose as a deterrent from dirty play as well as physical play against a team’s superstars.

The Washington Capitals have no deterrent right now. None. You can argue that their offensive prowess and efficiency on the Powerplay is the deterrent, and I would agree…but really for contending teams only. My worry is that later in the season, teams out of the hunt that may have a score to settle with the Caps, aren’t going to care too much about giving up a couple of meaningless goals in a game that they’re already completely out of. There will be quite a few more Mike Duco’s in the league at that point looking to make a name for themselves with their teams. I’m not in any way advocating taking an enforcer on the playoff roster, this is strictly a regular season move.

The enforcer is no different to me then a defensive specialist in basketball, they are quintessential role players. It’s because of this that we expect them to win every fight, its what they do…I’m still struggling with what Wade Belek did to Donald last year.

I guess part of me is also tired of losing as well, I respect Brads and Erskine for standing up when it’s needed, but it’s not really fair to them. Why should they have to consistently go against guys out of their weight class? I’m tired of seeing my team pushed around (and or terribly bloodied); I’d like to see Sugden get a shot.

Let’s take a look at some real world enforcer analogies.

  • Are you more inclined to push your luck at the bar if one of your friends used to be a college offensive lineman? Of course.
  • Do you know anyone who was beat up as a kid when everyone knew their older brother often times got suspended for fighting? Probably not.
  • Would you wear a Michael Crabtree jersey to an Eagles game in Philly with a stadium full of snow, if you were sitting next to Mr. T? Well, even if Mr. T was there, you still probably wouldn’t do something that stupid. But you get my point.

By Mark Randle