As the year draws to a close, we can reflect on another successful 12 months in which we’ve been able to move closer to normal than before. On the ice, we’ve seen Avangard lift the Gagarin Cup for the first time in the club’s history, with head coach Bob Hartley following Mike Keenan to become only the second Canadian to lead a team to our top prize. In the Women’s Hockey League, after an enforced delay due to COVID, we were treated to a thrilling final series between Agidel and KRS Vanke Rays, with Agidel finally topping the defending champion in a shoot-out in the decisive game.
We’ve also seen great individual achievements: 800 career points for the deadly Vadim Shipachyov, 1,300 career games for the ageless Danis Zaripov, a clutch of club and national records for Finnish star Teemu Hartikainen and more.
Off the ice, it was a great pleasure to visit Dubai at the start of December and continue the KHL World Games series after having to pause the program last season. The UAE is our most exotic destination yet, with Avangard and Ak Bars putting on a memorable show in the desert sun.
But, more important than another year of thrilling action on the ice, we can reflect on the success of our collective efforts to get hockey closer to normal than ever. Despite the on-going pandemic, and its impact on so many aspects of day-to-day life, the KHL’s protocols are proving to be robust. And the underlying numbers are encouraging. The total number of confirmed cases of the illness affecting players, coaches and staff so far this season is down sharply — roughly one ninth of the figures from the equivalent period last year. That’s substantially due to a superb effort to get people vaccinated: at present about 85% of club employees are fully jabbed against COVID. The knock-on benefits are obvious: we’ve lost just one scheduled game this season, and only 11 have been played behind closed doors. Restrictions are still in place, but it’s clear that they are working and contributing to a steady return to normality.
Against this background, we can look forward to an exciting conclusion to the 2021-2022 season and the upcoming Olympic tournament in Beijing. We can be optimistic about the future and we can enjoy a festive season full of happiness and hope.
We wish a Merry Christmas to you, and everyone who follows the KHL.