The KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) is the premier Russian Hockey League. It actually includes teams from four countries – Russia, Belarus, Kazakhistan and Latvia, although the last three countries only have one team each in the competition.
The KHL was formed in 2008, replacing the Russian Superleague, which was the top tier of the Russian hockey league system.
Most of the players in the KHL are Russian, Belarussian, Kazakh or Latvian. There are rules in place to limit the number of foreign players that teams can play, but there is an increasing number of foreign players in the KHL as the league grows more popular and better financed. Last season (2010-2011), there were 721 active players in the KHL, including 25 each from Canada and the Czech Republic, 24 each from Slovakia and Ukraine, and 6 from the United States. The majority (521) were Russian hockey players.
The KHL Hockey League is divided into two Conferences – Eastern and Western. The champions of each conference then play in the KHL final, a best of seven series of matches, for the Gagarin Cup (named after Yuri Gagarin, first man in space and amateur hockey player).
So far, the Gagarin Cup has been awarded three times, and the three KHL Champions have been:
2008-2009 Ak Bars Kazan (defeated Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4-3)
2009-2010 Ak Bars Kazan (defeated HC MVD 4-3)
2010-2011 Salavat Yulaev Ufa (defeated Altant Moscow Oblast 4-1)
AK Bars Kazan have been the dominant team in the KHL to date and, indeed, in Russian Hockey over the past five or six years. They only finished second in their conference this year, but have won trophies every year since the 2005-2006 season.
There are 23 teams in the KHL at the moment, down from 24 at its founding. The teams in each conference are:
[jcolumns][jbox color=”blue” title=”Eastern – Chernyshev Division”]
Avangard Omsk Oblast
Barys Astana (Kazakhstan)
Salavat Yulaev Ufa[/jbox][jcol/]
[jbox color=”blue” title=”Eastern – Kharlamov Division”]
Ak Bars Kazan
[jcolumns][jbox color=”blue” title=”Western – Tarasov Division”]
Altant Moscow Oblast
Torpedo Niznhy Novgorod
Dynamo Minsk (Belarus)[/jbox][jcol/]
[jbox color=”blue” title=”Western – Bobrov Division”]
SKA Saint Petersburg
Dimano Riga (Latvia)[/jbox][/jcolumns]
KHL 2011 2012 Season
The KHL season runs from September through April, and the KHL 2011 / 2012 season is scheduled to begin in September 2011. You can keep up to date on developments on the official KHL website, and on the KHL Livescore website.
These days there is almost constant talk about possible KHL expansion franchises, and it seems likely that the league may be expanded back to 24 teams in time for the start of the new season. Slovakian hockey team Lev Poprad have applied for KHL membership for a second time, after their rejection in 2010, and it is looking quite likely that they will be accepted in time for the forthcoming KHL 2011 season.
NHL KHL Exhibition Game
In October 2010, two NHL teams visited Europe to play exhibition matches against KHL opposition. The two NHL KHL matches were Dinamo Riga 1 − 3 Phoenix Coyotes and SKA St Petersbug 5 − 3 Carolina Hurricanes. Here are some video highlights of St Petersburg’s victory.
There had been hopes that NHL teams would again visit Europe in 2011, either for more exhibition matches or to play the 2011 NHL opener in Moscow, but discussions between the KHL and NHL fell through in March 2011.