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2009-10 KHL season
Kontinental Hockey League
2009-10 KHL season
Sport ice hockey
Founded 2008
Motto Хоккей – наша игра (Hockey – our game)
Inaugural season 2008-09 KHL season
No. of teams 24
Country(ies) Flag of Belarus Belarus,
Flag of Latvia Latvia,
Flag of Kazakhstan Kazakhstan,
Flag of Russia Russia
Most recent champion(s) Ak Bars Kazan
Most championship(s) Ak Bars Kazan
TV partner(s) Sport (Flag of Russia RUS)

Viasat (Flag of Finland FIN, Flag of Sweden SWE, Flag of Norway NOR, Flag of Denmark DEN, Flag of Bulgaria BUL, Flag of Hungary HUN, Flag of Lithuania LTU, Flag of Latvia LAT, Flag of Estonia EST)
Nova Sport (Flag of the Czech Republic CZE, Flag of Slovakia SVK)

The Kontinental Hockey League (in Russian: Континентальная хоккейная лига, Kontinentalnaya Hokkeinaya Liga) (KHL) is a professional league based in Eurasia, created in 2008 as a replacement for the Russian Superleague.




Original format

Initially, the KHL included all 20 teams of the RSL, plus Khimik Voskresensk and Barys Astana of the Vysshaya Liga, a new Dynamo Minsk and a new Dinamo Riga. The league established itself as a major one and thus aimed at becoming a major competitor to the National Hockey League. The league's trophy is the Gagarin Cup; the name was chosen as a tribute to Yuri Gagarin since the league's calendar was set so that the Cup finals falls at the latest on April 12th, the anniversary date of Gagarin's historical flight.

The new league was to be closed to the promotion and relegation system straight from the beginning. The league was initially divided into four divisions, named after legendary names of Russian/Soviet hockey (them being Vsevolod Bobrov, Anatoli Tarasov, Valeri Kharlamov and Arkady Chernyshev). Teams were drawn randomly into the four divisions according to the following process: first, all 20 teams coming from the RSL had their names put in 5 ballot boxes; depending on their performances in the league, they were put in the first box (best teams) and so on through the last. A sixth ballot box was added for the four newcomer teams, who were starting at zero, having no RSL record. Then, from these 6 boxes, a draw was made to decide the division members; for each division, there was one name drawn per box. Divisions will be changed after the end of every season following the same system. The purpose of this unusual process was to make the league fair for everyone, in terms of travel costs and level. The system was hardly tested straight away, as the two most distant teams of the league, Riga and Khabarovsk were picked to play in the same division, making travel costs heavy for both teams, as teams from a same division play each other more often than they play other teams. The inaugural divisions went as follows:

Bobrov Division Tarasov Division Kharlamov Division Chernyshev Division
Salavat Yulaev Ufa Metallurg Magnitogorsk Avangard Omsk Ak Bars Kazan
Dynamo Minsk Khimik Voskresensk Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Barys Astana
Spartak Moscow Traktor Chelyabinsk Lada Togliatti Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod
Metallurg Novokuznetsk HC MVD Balashikha Sibir Novosibirsk Vityaz Chekhov
Severstal Cherepovets SKA St. Petersburg Amur Khabarovsk Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
Atlant Mytischy CSKA Moscow Dinamo Riga Dynamo Moscow

Each team plays four times against the other teams of its division and twice against the other teams, for a total of 56 games per season. The first 16 teams advance to the playoffs; just like in the NHL, the league's top four seeds will be occupied by every division winner. The first round of the playoffs will be a best-of-five format; further rounds will be best-of-seven. By doing so, they ensure that even in the worst case, the league's final will always be on April 12th, anniversary of the historical flight of Yuri Gagarin.

Initially, Khimik Voskresensk was supposed to play in the Vysshaya Liga, while Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg was planned to play in the KHL, a first time in 12 years for the Ekaterinburg club to play at the top level in Russia. However, financial problems arose and the team had to be withdrawn from the upstart league; Voskresensk, that had been crowned Vysshaya Liga champion the previous season (beating Ekaterinburg in the finals) replaced them, while Avtomobilist returned for one more season in the second level of Russian hockey.

A salary cap 562,500,000 roubles (roughly 23.5 million euros) was adopted for a squad of 25 players, of which 162,500,000 roubles (6.8 millions) was to be spent on four "star players". The league resurrected the long dead NHL concept of the Waivers Draft and for a first time European hockey, a system of Entry Draft alike what is used in North America. Additionally, a system of farm teams was set up by the Russian Hockey Federation. The result was the Molodezhnaya Hokkeynaya Liga (MHL).

2008-09: the inauguration

All ready for its inauguration, the very North American-looking KHL held its inaugural match on September 2nd 2008 with the newly created Dinamo Riga playing some 6,000 kilometers away from home in the Russian Far East against Amur Khabarovsk. Aleksandrs Nizivijs earned the distinction of being the first scorer in the league's history 11 minutes 39 seconds into the game on a two-man advantage powerplay; Riga defeated Khabarovsk 4-2. Salavat Yulaev Ufa won the first edition of the Opening Cup by beating Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4-1.

The league's promising debuts suddenly darkened when Alexei Cherepanov, a highly touted young player, died on the ice on October 13th 2008 during a game between his Avangard Omsk and the home team, Vityaz Chekhov. The young star collapsed on his team's bench following a collision on the ice with his teammate Jaromir Jagr. Medical intervention was delayed by the premature departure of the ambulance that usually stays at the arena during game time that had to be called back; it took between 15 and 20 minutes to get Cherepanov to the hospital, according to reports[1]. Though attempts to get his heart beating again were successful on five occasions, including one where he regained consciousness and recognized his teammates[2], nothing could ultimately be done to save Cherepanov's life. The young forward, who was suffering of a myocarditis, a disease that results in not enough blood flowing to the heart, was found to have consumed nikethamide 3 hours prior to the game; investigating experts said that he had been engaged in doping for months.

The incident cast a serious shadow over the KHL and the sheer amount of negligence that built up to Cherepanov's death triggered several punitive moves. Omsk club director Mikhail Denisov has been fired, whereas the league Disciplinary Committee has since removed Omsk's doctors from that role with the club, and suspended Avangard general manager Anatoly Bardin and team president Konstantin Potapov. Chekhov's team president was also suspended.

On January 10th 2009, the league held its first All-Star Game. The format opposed Team Yashin, made up of the best Russian players of the league, to Team Jágr, made up of the best foreign players. The match was played outside, on a rink built on the Red Square, in Moscow. The game was, however, unsuccesful at the gates, due to the cold weather and the very small capacity of the purposely built facilities. Team Jágr defeated Team Yashin 7-6.

The league however finished its inaugural season on an excellent note, as the playoffs proved incredible. Avangard, a team that has been plagued all season long with poor results and the aforementioned death, only narrowly qualified for the playoffs with a weak 16th place overall, despite having an excellent team on paper. And this is in good part what made the playoffs so exciting, as Avangard turned into some sort of a "giant-killer" that wreaked much havoc. They first eliminated the defending champions, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, in four games and seriously menaced the future champions Ak Bars Kazan, leading the series 2-1 after three games, forcing the Tatar club to come out strong or fall. And very strong did they come out: Ak Bars hammered Avangard 11-1 in the fourth match to make the series even again. And in an epic fifth match, Kazan defeated Omsk 3-2 after trailing 1-2 with 16 seconds to go in the third period.

The league's inaugural Gagarin Cup was won on April 12th 2009 by Ak Bars Kazan, who defeated Lokomotiv Yaroslavl four games against three in the finals.

At the KHL's inaugural Entry Draft, Mikhail Pashnin of Vysshaya Liga's Mechel Chelyabinsk was selected first overall by CSKA Moscow.

2009-10: the sophomore season

Much changes were to be expected for the second season of the league. With the 2008 Financial Crisis raging and seriously hitting Russia, adjustments had to be made to ensure its teams can hold on. First, Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg had a sweet revenge on Khimik Voskresensk by taking its place in the KHL. Voskresensk had been accepted very late as a replacement for Ekaterinburg within the KHL, but definitely didn't have the finances nor the skills to compete with the other teams in the league, as its roster was initially ready for a season in the Vysshaya Liga. Khimik had finished dead last, and had to drop its best players to save money. Not financially viable for the KHL, it was replaced back by Avtomobilist.

Second, the controversial divisions of the inaugural season (which had put Riga and Khabarovsk together in the same division) were replaced by a more intuitive geographical conferences and divisions system. The new divisions went as follow:

The league also decided to innovate in the fight against the voluntary-tanking of teams in order to get the first pick overall. The league will now implement a little tournament to be played by the teams who failed to qualify for the playoffs. The winner of the tournament will get the coveted first pick, the runner-up the second, and so on. With the Molodezhnaya Hokkeynaya Liga ready for its first season, each club now has to set as many as 25 players to fill its roster. Clubs are also allowed to loan players to Vysshaya Liga teams, but no more than 5 players can go out on loan, and a team is forbidden to loan to more than two different Vysshaya Liga teams. Additionally, the league is expected to become even more North American, as it is set to adopt North American goal crease size and continuous 20 minutes playoffs overtime periods, replacing the shoot outs.

Expansions: the ever going speculations

The KHL initially hoped to be able to expand to 30 teams as soon as the 2009-10; however, possibly in good part due to the Financial Crisis, the league had to forget about its expansions plans in the short term. The only change that occured was a switch between Khimik and Avtomobilist, the former dropping from the KHL for financial reasons and replaced by the latter.

Various teams in the bigger European leagues have been considering, or at the very least been reported considering, requesting KHL entry. HC Energie Karlovy Vary, Frölunda HC, Färjestads BK, Sokil Kyiv, Kärpät Oulu, Eisbären Berlin, Kölner Haie, Yunost Minsk, EC Red Bull Salzburg, Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk, HC Dmitrov and Yunost Minsk are reported with various levels of credibility as KHL candidates, though there is no confirmation from any side at this point. The only teams to have given an answer would be Karlovy Vary and Salzburg; the former is interested by setting up a Czech all-star team (alike that Dinamo Riga, Dynamo Minsk and Barys Astana have created with their respective national players) participating in the KHL and a second team in the Czech Extraliga. The latter team declared they are more interested by entering the DEL than the KHL.

Trophies and awards

  • Gagarin Cup - championship trophy awarded to the playoffs winner
  • Cherepanov Memorial Trophy - awarded to the league's top rookie.

See also

Sources and references

  • Metallurg Magnitogorsk's website. It contains a release of the rules of the new league. In Russian only.
  • Article on the KHL on

Ice hockey in Russia
Continental Hockey League         Amur Tigers KhabarovskAtlant MytischiAvangard OmskAk Bars KazanBarys AstanaCSKA MoscowDynamo MinskDinamo RigaDynamo MoscowLada TogliattiLokomotiv YaroslavlMetallurg MagnitogorskMetallurg NovokuznetskHKM MVD BalashikhaNeftekhimik NizhnekamskSalavat Yulaev UfaSeverstal CherepovetsSibir NovosibirskSKA St. PetersburgSpartak MoscowTorpedo Nizhny NovgorodTraktor ChelyabinskVityaz ChekhovAvtomobilist Yekaterinburg
Vysshaya Liga          Neftyanik AlmetyevskErmak AngarskHC BelgorodMechel ChelyabinskHC DmitrovDizel PenzaKristall ElektrostalIzhstal IzhevskYugra Khanty-MansyskSokil KievTitan KlinKrylya Sovetov MoscowMHC Krylya SovetovZauralie KurganNeftyanik LeninogorskHK LipetskSary-Arka KaragandaToros NeftekamskSputnik Nizhny TagilGazprom-OGU OrenburgYuzhny Ural OrskMolot-Prikamie PermHC Rist PodolskHK RyazanHC VMF Saint PetersburgCSK VVS SamaraKristall SaratovMetallurg SerovKapitan StupinoGazovik TyumenKT Ust-KamenogorskAriada-Akpars VolzhskKhimik Voskresensk
Pervaya Liga
Russian Ice Hockey Federation
Men's Russian National TeamWomen's Russian National Team
This article is part of the Russian hockey portal.

This article uses material from the "Kontinental Hockey League" article on the Ice Hockey wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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