Last week saw the KHL closing ceremony, a festival of glitz and goals. It also brought news about the coming season – its schedule and some of its new faces.
As part of the annual post-season meeting of KHL club directors and GMs, details of the schedule for the 2018-19 season were announced. The headline figure is more hockey: each team will play 62 games in the coming season. The extra games will include a bunch of specially selected clashes against key rivals, maximizing the excitement for fans and players alike.
There are also proposals to stage some regular season games on neutral ice as part of an on-going effort to further increase the KHL’s appeal across Europe. Vienna, Austria, and Zurich, Switzerland, are among the cities in line to stage games during the fall.
“There’s going to be even more exciting hockey,” promised KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko.
Jan Kovar is leaving Metallurg, but incoming head coach Josef Jandac was delighted to pick his fellow-countryman’s brains about life and hockey in Magnitogorsk in preparation for his new role.
“Jan spent some great years with Metallurg,” the coach told KHL.ru in an exclusive interview. “He was full of praise for his time in Magnitogorsk. Of course, I was interested in hearing about the nature of the players, their character, the chemistry on the team. I can’t repeat much of what he told me, but it was a very useful view from within.”
However, Jandac won’t be trying to persuade the forward to stay. “I realized that Jan needed a change. He wants to shake himself, to experience something new. And, of course, this might be his last chance to try for the NHL.”
It’s all change in Moscow, where next season will see Dynamo and CSKA on the move. The Army Men are leaving their Leningradsky Prospekt home to take residence in the VTB Arena, built for the 2016 World Championship. It means a big boost in the number of fans able to get to CSKA games, with the club’s old arena limited to just 5,500 spectators.
Dynamo, meanwhile, is leaving the VTB Arena and will – eventually – return to the club’s spiritual home on Leningradka. The winter is set to bring the long-awaited opening of a new multi-sport arena on the site of the venerable Dynamo football stadium, and the hockey team is set to be a big part of that in the New Year. Before that, the Blue-and-Whites will play home games at Megasport, the 2007 World Championship arena located a short walk from the team’s new home.
IIHF President Rene Fasel was on hand to present a special award to SKA’s Pavel Datsyuk. Not only did he secure a place in the famous Triple Gold Club when he captained the Russians to Olympic glory in PyeongChang, he also became the first player to win the Olympics, the World Championship, the Stanley Cup and the Gagarin Cup. That earned the 39-year-old the unique Syrius Award, and an endorsement from Fasel.
“I’d like to congratulate the KHL on its 10th anniversary,” he said. “You are continuing your fantastic work, it’s been an excelletn season. As Gennady Timchenko said, a strong league means a strong national team. Winning medals at the PyeongChang Olympics was tough, but you did it.
“Pavel, you’ve won the World Championship, the Olympics, the Stanley Cup and the Gagarin Cup, and when Dmitry Chernyshenko asked me to come here and present this trophy to you, I agreed without a moment’s hesitation. Special congratulations to you!”
Datsyuk was just one of many prizewinners at the KHL closing ceremony last week. Full list of all the awards
Last season saw the first KHL games screened on TV in Great Britain. Next season will see the first British international play in the league. Defenseman Ben O’Connor, a key part of the national team’s rise to the top division of the IIHF World Championship, has signed a contract to join Barys Astana.
The former Sheffield Steeler is no stranger to Kazakhstan – he spent more than three seasons in Central Asia with Saryarka and Arlan – and he made an impression at that time after potting 56 points in 51 games in Kokshetau. Now he’s hoping to blaze a trail for British talent on the world stage.
“British players have seemed to get overlooked for some reason and I think the success of the national team is making people take notice now,” he told the Elite League’s website. “I would certainly love to see more guys ply their trade abroad and it’s only a matter of time when you consider we’re in Pool A against some top teams next year and the world will be watching.”