On Feb. 4 the 24th Olympic Winter Games opened in Beijing. This is a long-awaited event for athletes and fans alike. For a couple of weeks, sport brings together people of all ages throughout the world. The KHL tried to do everything it could to ensure that our players – 120 people from 22 clubs – could represent their countries and take part in an event that is hugely significant for every athlete. The teams from Russia and China are completely comprised of players from our league. Latvia, Czechia and Finland draw at least half of the roster from the KHL. Representatives of our league make up 40% of the total number of Olympic participants.
From the very start, the schedule for the KHL season incorporated a pause during the Olympics. The players had time enough to join their countries and today most of them are already in Beijing.
While we are all looking forward to Olympic hockey, we are also continuing to work towards the most important part of our own season – the playoffs. This year, once again, they promise to be competitive and unpredictable with no clear favorite to lift the Gagarin Cup.
To ensure that the playoffs go ahead in the best possible conditions for the competing teams and their fans during this on-going pandemic, the league is proposing not to play the remaining games of the regular system and to submit a new system to determine the final regular season standings for ratification by the Board of Directors and the agreement of the Russian Hockey Federation.
There are several reasons for this, including the on-going pandemic and the risk of infection for players as they fly to different cities to complete their fixtures. Thus, the league decided to focus on staging the Gagarin Cup playoffs in the most appropriate schedule, with teams playing every other day at each stage and no more than four fixtures on each game day (two from each conference).
Before the start of the series, each player can complete quarantine with his team. And an extra day between games makes it possible to change players quickly if needed. An outbreak of infections at one game should not put the rest of the series under threat.
The league looked at several alternatives to determine the results of the regular season and the teams qualified for the playoffs. It is important to find a formula that is fair and guarantees equal conditions for every team. The most objective solution is to nominate the 16 teams with the highest points-per-game percentage. This is a well-known and proven practice that has previously been used in Russia and in the rest of the world.
Several teams who remained in contention for a playoff place will miss out on a top-eight finish in their conferences. But in these circumstances, this is the only fair solution that will enable us to complete the season and crown a new champion.
The new start date for the playoffs is March 1.
Dear friends, fans and hockey lovers, very soon the KHL will be back with us. We look forward to action at the highest level, full of intensity and emotion.
I wish everyone good health, and look forward to seeing you in the arenas soon.