The Kontinental Hockey League is an international tournament created to further the development of hockey throughout Russia and other nations across Europe and Asia. The decision to establish the League was formally made in February of 2008. On the 27th of March, 2008, following extensive preparations and negotiations, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation (RIHF) officially transferred to the KHL the rights to host the national championship for three years. The four-year agreement (signed by the RIHF and KHL on the 29th of April, 2017) is currently in force. The KHL Championship also determines the champion of Russia – this accolade is awarded to the highest-placed Russian club on completion of the Second Stage of the Championship.
The League is divided into two Conferences, East and West, and into four Divisions, which are named in honor of famous players and coaches: Vsevolod Bobrov, Anatoly Tarasov, Valery Kharlamov and Arkady Chernyshev.
The 13th KHL Championship that began on September 2nd, 2020 and will come to an end not later than on April 30th, 2021, is contested by a total of 23 teams from Russia, Belarus, China, Finland, Kazakhstan and Latvia.
The KHL Championship comprises two stages: the regular season and the playoffs.
Structure of the First Stage of the Championship
In the first stage of the Championship, each team plays two games against each of the teams (making it 44 games), plus 16 games against different opponents. Thus, each team will play a total of 60 games, after which the following are determined:
Determining the Positions of Teams in the Standings at the End of the First Stage of the Championship
The teams are given their final rankings in the Division, Conference and overall League standings according to the total number of points earned by the teams over the course of the First Stage of the Championship.
In the event of two or more teams having the same number of points, the higher placing in the Division, Conference and League standings, current or final, is given to the team which has:
If teams are still tied according to criterion a), above, then criterion b) applies; if teams are still level according to b), then c) is applied, and so on.
In the event of teams still being tied after all five of the above-mentioned criteria are applied, then the teams shall be separated by the drawing of lots.
In the official Conference standings, the top two places are allocated to the teams occupying first place in their Division; first place in the Conference standings goes to the Division leader which has earned the most points in the First Stage of the Championship.
Final Standings of the First Stage of the Championship
The final standings of the First Stage of the Championship, the Regular Season, determine the sixteen (16) teams that will take part in the Second Stage, the play-offs.
In the overall League standings, the teams are ranked from 1 to 23 according to the total number of points earned in all games of the First Stage of the Championship, with the best-performing team ranked in first place and the worst-performing team occupying the 23rd position.
Procedure for Determining the Participating Teams in the Playoffs
When the final standings have been determined at the end of the First Stage, the top eight (8) teams in each Conference qualify for the Second Stage of the Championship (a series of playoff games).
In each Conference, the first and second seeds shall be the teams which secured first place in their respective Divisions, with the highest seeding given to the best-performing team, according to the above criteria for determining the standings.
In each Conference, the teams which finished in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th place in the standings are seeded from 3 to 8 in accordance with their final positions, regardless of the Division in which they played.
Structure of Play-Off Series in the Second Stage of the Championship
In each Conference, the highest-ranked team (1st seed) is matched with the lowest-ranked team (8th seed), and the second-highest (2nd seed) plays against the second-lowest (7th seed), and so on.
Home-ice advantage through all the rounds of the play-offs is given to the team with the highest ranking.
In the event of the final being contested by two teams which earned an identical seeding in their respective Conference, home-ice advantage is given to the team which occupied the higher place in the overall League standings at the end of the First Stage of the Championship.
Procedure for Playoff Games
The games of the Second Stage of the Championship (the playoffs) are arranged according to the following procedure:
Distribution of Places in the Final Standings after the Second Stage of the Championship
The Second Stage of the Championship determines the tournament champion, and also the positions of the teams in the overall League standings from the 2nd place down to 16th place inclusive.
The team that wins the final series becomes the champion of the Kontinental Hockey League, and the holder of the Gagarin Cup.
The team that loses the final series takes second place in the final League standings.
Third place in the Championship goes to whichever of the two beaten Conference finalists occupied the higher position in the overall League standings at the end of the First Stage of the Championship.
The fourth place in the Championship is given to the other beaten Conference finalist, which finished the Regular Season in a lower position in the overall League standings.
The 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th positions in the final Championship standings are given to the four teams which were eliminated in the Conference semi-finals. The determining factor in ranking these teams from 5th to 8th shall be their respective positions in the standings at the end of the First Stage of the Championship, with 5th place going to the team with the best Regular Season record of the four; 6th place given to the team with the second-best Regular Season results, and so on.
The positions from 9th to 16th in the final Championship standings are given to the eight teams which were eliminated in the Conference quarter-finals. Once again, the determining factor is the teams’ final positions in the standings after the First Stage of the Championship. The team which finished the highest of the eight in the Regular Season standings is given 9th place in the Championship; 10th place goes to the team with the next highest Regular Season placing, and so on.
The bottom twelve positions in final Championship standings, from 17th down to 23rd, are occupied by the teams which failed to qualify for the Second Stage of the Championship, and therefore remain unchanged from positions 17 to 23 in the overall League standings at the end of the First Stage of the Championship.
The gold, silver and bronze medalists of the Russian Ice Hockey Championship are the Russian teams which occupy the highest, second-highest, and third-highest positions in final standings at the end of the Second Stage of the KHL Championship.