Sergei Zinovjev: RSL Transfer of the Summer

By Eugene Belashchenko

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Sergei Zinovjev:
RSL Transfer of the Summer

 By: Eugene Belashchenko


Every summer a “sensational”
controversy involving an illegal player transfer immerses the Russian hockey
world. The last two high profile cases that occurred involved Metallurg
Novokuznetsk and Avangard Omsk. In each case Avangard Omsk, under the “skillful”
guidance of the club’s president Anatoli Bardin, attempted to sign Metallurg
Novokuznetsk’s player. During the summer of 2000, Vadim Tarasov, Montreal
Canadiens draftee and Russia’s best goalie two years running, signed an
agreement first with Avangard Omsk, but then had a change of heart and decided
to stay with Novokuznetsk. Novokuznetsk won that battle in the arbitration
court, keeping their franchise player. The next summer Avangard tried again,
signing Artem Chernov, Dallas Stars draftee and one of Novokuznetsk’s most
productive forwards, to a multi year deal while he still allegedly had a year
left on his agreement with Metallurg Novokuznetsk. This time Avangard had the
upper hand and on a technicality the team succeeded in keeping the talented
young forward in Omsk.


This year Metallurg Novokuznetsk and
Avangard Omsk took the summer off, letting Spartak Moscow and Ak Bars Kazan take
center stage in the off season scandals. After enjoying a great year with
Spartak Moscow, Sergei Zinovjev seemed unhappy with the direction his
team was heading. The team started off strong, but then ran into a midseason
slump that resulted in Spartak Moscow finishing out of playoff contention and
also resulted in the firing of the team’s head coach. During the downward
spiral, Spartak Moscow somehow slighted the talented young forward and caused
him to want out of the organization. Contending that Spartak did not meet the
obligations specified in the contract, Sergei demanded that the contract be
annulled, thus relieving him of playing another season with the team. The
obligation in question was Spartak’s commitment to provide Sergei with an
apartment in downtown Moscow. The team argued that it did in fact offer Sergei
an apartment. However, as it was later determined by the Russian Hockey League
arbitration court, the offered apartment was not in the downtown area and thus
did not meet the conditions specified in the contract.


Prior to the court’s rulling, Sergei
began practicing with Ak Bars Kazan, one of Super League wealthiest clubs that
also acquired NHLers Alexander Korolyuk and Valeri Zelepukin in the off-season.
The arbitration court did find the case in his favor, but punished him and Ak
Bars for not waiting for the court’s decision before joining his new team. The
court ruled that he had to stay off the ice for the first eight weeks of the
regular season, but was then free to sign with any club. Spartak’s management
was infuriated by the decision, and since the team had nothing to lose and
everything to gain, the president threatened to take up the ruling with the
appeals court. Whether or not Spartak would succeed in appeals court, Sergei
Zinovjev would have had to stay off the ice for the duration of the proceedings
and, as it turned out, Ak Bars Kazan was not willing to wait for that long. The
team’s management ended the standoff with Spartak by offering compensation for
Sergei’s rights. Spartak, which at the time had already lost it’s first three
matches of the season, now had a strong incentive to settle the issue and
couldn’t afford to stretch the proceedings to simply make an example out of


On September 18th Ak Bars Kazan
announced that it would send center Alexander Trofimov to Spartak Moscow for the
remained of the season. The team further added that it would continue paying
Trofimov’s salary while he was with Spartak Moscow. This scenario was definitely
a winning situation for Ak Bars, a wealthy team which finally acquired the
coveted young center and could easily afford to pay Trofimov’s salary. Spartak
did not completely lose out either. Granted the team lost it’s most talented
center, but that was partially the fault of Spartak Moscow’s management for not
satisfying all the stipulations of his contract. Instead of getting nothing as
was rulled by the court, Spartak received a quality center without increasing
their payroll.


About Sergei Zinovjev:

A talented though somewhat undersized
center. Selected by Boston Bruins 73rd overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
Started his career with Metallurg Novokuznetsk. Sergei is considered to be one
of the best centers in Russia today. He was invited to join the Russian Senior
National team last year, and again this year, for the EuroTour tournaments. For
more information please visit


– Eugene Belashchenko