The Kontinental Hockey League was founded in 2008 and is a continually expanding international professional ice hockey league in Eurasia. It is without a doubt the strongest hockey league in Europe, and is certainly beginning to give the USA’s equivalent the NHL a run for its money.
Especially since the NHL is currently (at the time of writing) under a complete lockout due to internal disputes, between player unions and team owners. Many players have made the move to the KHL to guarantee ice time and to strike more lucrative and stable player contracts. Kaspars Daugavins, one of Latvia’s best attacking ice hockey players has made the move homeward to play for Dinamo Riga from Ottawa Senators.
Before 2008 there was a Russian Superleague(RSL). The KHL was established to strengthen Russia’s national team as expectations were not met in the 2002 Salt Lake games (bronze) and in the Turin 2006 (no medal) games. Russia wants gold in Sochi in 2014. The only way they were going to achieve this was to improve their game domestically and invest in their hockey in their own back yard. Hence, the lucrative and star studded KHL was established. The salary cap is set at 1.1 billion rubles (approx. US$36.5 million), but each club can waive the cap for up to three players transferred directly from the NHL, if he is eligible to play for his national team, or be Stanley Cup winner or finalist and finally played not less than 150 games within the last 3 seasons in the NHL. The player only has to meet one of these critiereas not all of them. This basically ensures that the KHL are attracting the cream of the crop of NHL players. Currently the the dispute in the NHL is over their $54.2 million salary cap, a number all teams must meet in order to ice a team for the 2012-13 season.
The KHL began its operations with 24 teams. The inaugural match was on September 2nd 2008 with the newly created Dinamo Riga playing some 9,000 kilometers away from home in the Russian Far East against Amur Khabarovsk. One of Dinamo Riga’s playing legends Aleksandrs Nizivijs earned the distinction of being the first scorer in the league’s history 11 minutes 39 seconds into the game.
This season (2012-2013) the league has expanded to 26 teams, Slovan Bratislava from Slovakia and HC Donbass from Donetsk, Ukraine joined the league, while Lev Poprad were replaced by Lev Praha, a team with the same name, but based in Prague, Czech Republic.
Thus, first time, the league consist of 26 teams, of which 20 are based in Russia and 6 more are located in Belarus, Czech Republic, Latvia,Kazakhstan, Slovakia and Ukraine.
The aim for all teams in the league is to ‘make the cut’ and enter the 16-team playoff in the second half of the season. At the end of the season, the winning team of the play off is awarded the Gagarin Cup, named after the infamous cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
We would like to wish our destinations Riga, Prague and Bratislava all the best for this season and we would encourage any visitors to these cities to experience the thrill and excitement of watching a KHL game live. Please contact us for more information about watching a KHL game live.