During the NHL Lockout, we'll profile some of the different leagues all over the globe that you can turn to for your hockey fix and catch some NHLers in action while locked out.
The Kontinental Hockey League was founded in 2008 and is considered the top hockey league in Europe and second only to the NHL in the world. The KHL is comprised of 26 teams across 7 countries, 20 of which are based in Russia. The KHL is a top destination for many NHLers during the lockout for it's skill-level and proximity to home for European NHL players. As this lockout continues on you'll be seeing and hearing a lot more about the KHL with some of the NHL's biggest stars competing in the rival league.
Here are some of the things you can expect from the KHL and some events that have dominated headlines in the leagues five year existence:
StructureEach team plays a 56 game season with 4 games against teams in their division and and two games against non-divisional teams. Teams are divided into two conferences and further divided into four divisions named after Russian legends: Bobrov Division, Tarasov Division, Kharlamov Division, and Chernyshev Divison. The playoffs run pretty similar to the NHL's in that the top 8 teams in each conference qualify and play best-of-seven series until the two conference champions face off to be the Champion of Russia.
Notable PlayersThe KHL's most notable player in its short existence has been Nashville Predators 2004 first round draft pick and 2012 playoff goat, Alexander Radulov. Radulov holds many KHL records and has been the KHL's regular season MVP the past three seasons. Other notable KHL regulars include Patrick "block a shot with my jock" Thoresen, former Mario Lemieux linemate, Alexei Morozov, and a guy the Islanders are still paying until 2014-15 named Alexei Yashin. The KHL is full of former NHLers so if you happen to be watching a game don't be surprised if you yell out, "so that's what happened to Niko Kapanen!"
The list of NHLers going to the KHL is growing everyday with the lockout and some of the stars to watch over there include: Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Gonchar, and Ilya Bryzgalov. The KHL wanted only top-level NHL talent to come over so players had to meet certain criteria to be eligible to play.
Love For LokomotivThe KHL 2011-12 season was marred by the crash of a plane carrying most members of the the KHL team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl before their season began on September 7th, 2011. The Opening Cup game to kick off the KHL season was abandoned and the season delayed 5 days. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was forced to withdraw from the KHL season and joined the Russian Major League which is essentially a KHL farm system. The disaster and the players and team personnel lost is one of hockeys greatest tragedies and triumphs as the hockey world bonded together with Love for Lokomotiv and the Yaroslavl team returned to the KHL for the 2012-13 season. The Opening Cup game between the previous year's champion and runner up is now named the Lokomotiv Cup to honour those lost in the crash.
AwardsThe championship trophy is named the Gagarin Cup in honour of Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, who was the first human in space. Gagarin is a Soviet national symbol for his accomplishment and is honoured with this badboy that is rumoured to weigh more than the Stanley Cup at 40lbs (Russia would). They have similar awards to that of the NHL such as Top Sniper for goal scoring leader and the Golden Stick Award for regular season MVP, but they also have some team ones such as top offensive team and a Most Active Fan award for best work with a fanbase. Our favourite is their version of the Conn Smythe Award simply titled Master of the Playoffs.
Goon ProblemThe KHL has often made headlines the past few seasons for their line brawls and fights with some bottom feeder teams employing North American goons. Vityaz Chekhov is perhaps the most famous of these teams having made headlines for having a game abandoned due to a brawl, having players on the team punch out wedding guests, and even having a player suspended for the rest of the season after a dirty sucker punch. That sucker punch actually spawned a rule change in which teams would only be allowed to sign a North American player if they've played a minimum number of NHL games, thus limiting the number of minor league goons seeking employment over in the KHL. Although this won't do much as sometimes even the coaches lose their cool.
KHL Junior DraftSimilar to the NHL, the KHL holds a draft at the end of their season and teams select the rights to amateur ice hockey players who are between 17 and 21 years old and do not play in the KHL or any of the Russian leagues. They literally select the rights to any amateur hockey player that fits this bill. Some notable players drafted into the KHL that never signed include: Erik Karlsson, Erik Gudbranson, Victor Hedman, Taylor Hall, Jonathan Huberdeau, Gabriel Landeskog, and Sean Couturier. The KHL draft is more for show as top prospects aren't normally drafted as KHL teams run their own junior teams and simply protect their junior stars in these drafts.
All-Star WeekendThe KHL All-Star Weekend is quite the celebration with the best of the league competing at the midway mark to showcase their skills. The first KHL All-Star game was held outdoors in Red Square and featured a group of Russian players named Team Yashin against a group of world players named Team Jagr. While those team names would remain for two more games, the event would be moved inside. The KHL Skills Competition has featured some silly events such as longest shot and a Captain's Duel in which the two team captains face off in a series of jerky events such as banking a puck off the boards into the net or bowling with a puck. They also have a shootout skills competition which St. Louis Blues prospect, Vladimir Tarasenko, took it to another level last year:
RecordsSingle Season Records
Goals: Pavel Brendel, Jan Marek, Marcel Hossa (35 goals)
Assists: Alexander Radulov (60 assists)
Points: Alexander Radulov (80 points)
Wins: Karri Ramo (33)
Shutouts: Robert Esche (9)
All-Time Records (as of 9/21/12)
Goals: Sergei Mozyakin (111 goals)
Assists: Alexander Radulov (168 assists)
Points: Alexander Radulov (260 points)
Wins: Michael Garnett (87)
Shutouts: Vasily Koshechkin (24)