On the 11th of July, the KHL revealed the schedule for 2019-20 season. Today I will sum up the schedule and rink sizes in the league for this coming season as well as discuss the KHL world games.
The KHL Continues with 24 Clubs, a Minor Change in Divisions
In March the KHL Board of Directors approved a list of 25 teams for the 2019-20 season. That list included Slovan Bratislava. But the Slovak club did not fulfil the conditions, especially financial guarantees, and left the championship. Therefore the league will continue with 24 sides, who are divided into four divisions of six teams.
Torpedo N.Novgorod moved from the Eastern Conference to the West and Sibir Novosibirsk replaced Torpedo in the Kharlamov division of the Eastern Conference. Despite playing in the western part of Russia in Balashika, Avangard Omsk stays in the Eastern Conference. The league does not want to interrupt the relationship between the club and its fans. Avangard will get a new venue in a few years and will move back to their home in Omsk.
Each team will play 62 games in the regular season, so 744 games in total. Just to compare, last years regular-season consisted of 775 games, each club played 62 regular-season games and the league had 25 clubs.
The 2019-20 regular season will begin on the first of September and finish on the 27th of February. The Gagarin Cup playoff will begin on the 1st of March and can go on until the 30th of April if required.
The 2020 Week of Hockey Stars will be held from the 11-19th of January and will take place at Dynamo Moscow’s VTB Arena. With the league’s showcase event, the all-star game of three leagues – Women Hockey League, the MHL (major juniors) and of course, the KHL All-Star Game. The league considered various cities as a host, including Helsinki, St.Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Magnitogorsk, Yaroslavl & Vladivostok.
The KHL World Games in Davos
Traditionally, the KHL plans their games outside cities where their clubs are located. This time the league decided to host the Green Derby between Salavat Yualev Ufa and Ak Bars Kazan in Davos, Switzerland. The game will be held under the league’s brand, KHL World Games on the 23rd of December. Afterwards, Salavat Yulaev will stay in Davos to participate at the Spengler Cup.
The Green Rivalry is one of the biggest hockey rivalries in Russia. And the reason is very simple, it is a confrontation of teams from neighbouring Bashkortostan (Ufa) and Tatarstan (Kazan). And why green? That colour is dominant for both clubs and their republics symbols.
Hamburg, Copenhagen & Paris on the Radar
The league considered other European cities for the KHL World Games. Hamburg, Copenhagen and Paris were among them. Georgy Kobylyansky, the KHL Hockey Operations Vice-President, explained the negotiations as follows.
We considered Hamburg, Copenhagen & Paris for the KHL World Games. Even though Copenhagen hosted the IIHF World Championship, the arena does not have a permanent ice surface, so it takes two weeks to make it. And the venue in the Danish capital is multipurpose, so you need to make a reservation for it around two years in advance. It was impossible to find free dates in the venue’s event calendar. Regarding the Bercy Arena (AccorHotels Arena) in Paris, the venue has free dates in February, but we cannot organise the World Games at the time due to the final stage of the regular season. Hamburg is a wonderful place, the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) recommended us that city. There was a team playing the DEL, but the club ceased to exist. Unfortunately, the venue owner removed the facilities for making the ice surface last year. We would like to host the KHL World Games in those venues in the future. We negotiate with the DEB about co-organisating of the KHL World Games with the German National Team´s game in Germany.
New Destinations – Almaty and Shenzhen
In addition to the KHL World Games, the league’s games will be played in Almaty, Kazakhstan and Shenzhen, China for the first time. And the Estonian capital Tallinn will host Jokerit’s games for the second time in a row. I want to remind you that these games are not part of the KHL World Games. But they go with the league’s strategy to explore new destinations.
The Kazakh city of Almaty got a brand new multipurpose arena in 2016. It seats 12,000 for ice hockey. The venue would be great for a KHL expansion team if the league decided to go there. Barys Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana, will host Spartak Moscow & Traktor Chelyabinsk at Almaty Arena in September.
Due to the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, public events like a hockey game and flights to Beijing are restricted in September. It is a reason for the cancelling of the NHL China Games this year. And it is also a reason why KRS will begin its season at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzhen. The venue seats 18,000 for ice hockey and was home for KRS’ affiliated women teams playing the Canadian Women Hockey League (CWHL), but the league discontinued its operations this year. According to unconfirmed reports, KRS’ women team will join the Russian Women Hockey League.
KRS will host three teams in Shenzhen in September. All teams will play two back-to-back games in the southern Chinese city. These opponents are Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Barys Nur-Sultan and Traktor Chelyabinsk. Then the Chinese team will move to Beijing for the remainder of the season. The club will play at Shougang Arena, where they finished their 2018-19 regular season. I will remind you that KRS played in Shanghai in previous seasons.
The KHL Switching to the Smaller Ice
Now we know everything about the schedule. But the question is where to play? Nothing extraordinary, the same venues as last season. But, there is a big change with the ice surface. Many clubs are switching to the smaller ice surface.
The league has been vocal about the smaller ice surface for many years. Even more, there is a rule obligating the clubs to build venues with an ability to switch a rink size any time of the day. I mean new projected venues. The league wants to show the more intense games on smaller ice. Of course, you can find many pros and cons of all three rink sizes. What are they? The most traditional in Europe is the classic IIHF rink (60x30m), then the middle one – so-called Finnish rink size (60x28m) and finally the NHL rink size (60x26m).
You can look at the list of teams and their rink size for the coming season. The list may be updated during the off-season.
So, what is the reason for the radical change? First and foremost, the league wants to use a smaller ice surface in the future, but some old venues are not capable to change the rink size right now. Another reason is the IIHF’ decision to hold the IIHF World Championship on the NHL rink size in the future. There is even a report the Russian representatives were the biggest lobbyists for that change.
The KHL is a sole league in the world using three different rink sizes. It remains to be seen if it is the right choice.
Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Andrei Starostin\TASS via Getty Images)