On Wednesday, the 17th of June, the Kontinental Hockey League Executive Board gathered in Moscow for a meeting devoted to the forthcoming season, and one of the main items on the agenda was the structure of the competition.
The Board confirmed that it would adopt the format which had already earned the approval of the Russian Hockey Federation, the Ministry of Sport and the Team Russia coaching staff. Therefore, the 2015-16 season of the KHL Championship will begin on Monday, the 24th of August, with the traditional Opening Cup game between the previous season’s finalists, namely SKA and CSKA; the season will finish on or before the 19th of April, 2016 - the scheduled date for Game 7 of the Gagarin Cup final series.
In formulating the competition structure and calendar for the new campaign, the League consulted with and tried to accommodate the wishes of all the member clubs, and paid particular attention to potential problems caused by rival events frequently staged at the clubs’ arenas. With the national team in mind, the Championship schedule provides breaks in the season to aid Team Russia in its preparations for each stage of the Eurotour.
The Board also agreed that Monday is the best day of the week to stage the most high-profile games.
For the forthcoming season, the 28 member clubs are separated into divisions and conferences in the following manner:
Bobrov Division: Dinamo Minsk, Dinamo Riga, Jokerit, Medvescak, SKA, Slovan, Spartak;
Tarasov Division: Vityaz, Dynamo Moscow, Lokomotiv, Severstal, Torpedo, HC Sochi, CSKA.
Kharlamov Division: Avtomobilist, Ak Bars, Lada, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Neftekhimik, Traktor, Ugra;
Chernyshev Division: Avangard, Admiral, Amur, Barys, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Salavat Yulaev, Sibir.
As before, the Championship will comprise two stages. In the first stage, the regular season, each team will play every other team, once at home and once on the road, giving a total of 54 games (27 at home and 27 on the road), plus 6 additional games (3 at home, and 3 on the road) to be played by each team against rival clubs from its own conference. Thus, each team will play a total of 60 games in the regular season.
The second stage of the Championship, the play-offs, has only undergone minor changes. As with the previous season, the play-offs will be contested by the top eight teams from each conference, and each of the four division winners are to receive the top two seeding places in their respective conference, with the top seed being the team with the best results over the regular season. The remaining seedings, from third down to eight, will be allocated according to the teams’ final positions in the conference standings at the end of the regular season, regardless of division.
However, through all rounds of the play-offs, games within a given conference will now be held on different days.
Another innovation is that games within each series will take place every other day, thus giving the players a full day to rest and recuperate and therefore minimizing the risk of injury.