The Kontinental Hockey League has completed its draft schedule for the 2017-18 season, and has submitted it for consultation to all the participant clubs in the Championship. The schedule is still subject to minor changes at the request of the clubs, and the final version will not be made public until the 12th of July, but the most important dates of the campaign have been confirmed.
The regular season of the tenth Championship will commence on the 21st of August, 2017, with the Opening Cup game contested by SKA and CSKA in Saint Petersburg, and will finish on the 1st of March, 2018. Each team will play 56 matches. The League has inserted several breaks in the schedule: for the Finland stage of the Eurotour (7-11 November) and the Russia stage (13-17 December), as well as for the national team’s Olympic preparations (24 January – 8 February) and the 2018 Winter Olympic Games (9-25 February). There will also be one rest day before and after the KHL All-Star Game, which will form part of the 2018 Week of Hockey Stars (12-15 Jan) in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The playoff stage of the championship will start on the 3rd of March and will end on the 26th of April at the latest (i.e. in the event of the final series running to seven games). Owing to the reduction in the number of available match days, it was decided that the first two rounds of the knockout stage – the Conference quarter-finals and semi-finals – will begin with two pairs of games played on consecutive days. Thus, Game 1 and 2 will be played on successive days, as will Game 3 and 4, with a rest day after Game 2, and if necessary, after Game 4, 5, and 6. The Conference finals and the Gagarin Cup final will be played according to the now-traditional format of one game every two days.
The League created an expert working group to put together the 2017-18 calendar, and the task involves conquering many daunting organizational and logistical obstacles. Devising a schedule for the regular season alone involves finding the most convenient dates for 756 separate journeys, many of which are long and arduous (The distance between Bratislava and Vladivostok, for example, is close to 5,000 miles). In addition to the time constraints imposed by the breaks in the season, mentioned above, there are also many days on which the arenas are unavailable, as they are already booked for non-hockey events. This is the case with Jokerit Helsinki, for example, on no fewer than 90 days, and is also a considerable factor with Dinamo Riga (approx. 60 days), Dinamo Minsk and Slovan (approx. 40 days each), plus SKA and Admiral (approx. 30 days each). For this reason, certain teams have been scheduled to play two home games on successive days.
Georgy Kobylansky, KHL Hockey Operations Vice-President, had this to say, "The availability of our arenas, with several clubs deprived of their stadia for between 30 and 90 days, and the breaks for the Olympics were the two main factors influencing our work in compiling the schedule for the forthcoming season. Against these constraints, and at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control, I believe that we have still managed to create a well-balanced draft, and one which accommodates most of the views expressed by the participating clubs in the Championship. I would like to thank the clubs for their constructive approach and cooperation in their dealings with the League. It now remains to fine-tune some specific details and then the final version of the schedule will be published."