Potential Kontinental Hockey League expansion

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The potential of including addition franchises to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) has been an ongoing topic since the league's inception. In June 2012, the league presented a plan that would see expansion to as many as 64 teams in up to 22 countries.[1] It has later been stated that the league only can comprise 32 teams, because of problems with logistics with more teams.[2]

Confirmed new teams for the 2014–15 season are Jokerit from Helsinki, Lada Togliatti (earlier played in the league) and HC Sochi.[3]

Proposed pan-European league[edit]

United Hockey Europe was the first proposed pan-European ice hockey league. It was announced at the International Ice Hockey Federation's September 2009 congress by Alexander Medvedev, president of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).[4]

The proposed league would consist of two conferences split into four divisions. The current KHL would make up one of the conferences. The other conference would be composed of a Scandinavian division and a Central European division. The winners of the two conferences would play each other for the overall championship.[4]

The proposal of June 2012 at the International Hockey Forum in Barcelona was a more updated version of this plan, that would see two conferences of 32 teams each, playing a 62-game regular schedule followed by five rounds of playoffs.[1]

The new league would essentially replace the current model of European hockey based on relegation and promotion within national systems, supplemented by an international tournament, most recently Champions Hockey League, and replace it with a system of franchises much like that of North American National Hockey League (NHL).

Central Europe[edit]

The Czech Republic's HC Energie Karlovy Vary[5][6] signed letters of intent with the KHL in 2008 and hoped to begin playing in the 2009-10 season.[7] However, they had to annul plans to join the league[8] due to the financial crisis of 2007–2010.[9]

German teams Eisbären Berlin[10] and Kölner Haie[11] have been approached by the KHL but are currently not considering joining the league. The KHL also wants to expand to Austria by affiliating EC Red Bull Salzburg. SKA Saint Petersburg General manager Barry Smith said that an affiliation may be possible in three or four years. Red Bull and team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, however, favours playing in the German Deutsche Eishockey Liga.[12][13]

In an interview for Croatian sports portal Sportal.hr,[14] Croatian hockey club KHL Medveščak's president Damir Gojanović revealed that he and club's management have been in contacts with KHL expansion representatives about possibility of Croatian club joining the KHL. KHL Medveščak has very high attendance, a loyal fan base and comes from a large and regionally important city with a brand new multi-purpose arena.

Italian hockey club Hockey Milano Rossoblu was slated to join the KHL in the 2012–13 season[15] but the move was delayed due to a small arena, tight finances and the club being too underdeveloped. In October 2012, they indicated plans intending to join in 2013-14.[16] There has been doubt about Milano's accession to KHL, as the negotiations has lasted for several years. However, both KHL and Milano are still positive to accession, concluded from a meeting in February 2014.[17]

A group from Switzerland is interested in starting an expansion team in Huttwil for the 2014-15 season.[18]

Northern Europe[edit]

Scandinavium in Gothenburg has hosted the World Championships in 1981 and 2002.

On 28 April 2009, it was reported that Swedish teams HV71, Linköpings HC, Färjestad BK, Frölunda HC and Djurgårdens IF (of which Färjestad and Frölunda have had offers previously from the KHL) had terminated their shareholders' agreements with Elitserien (now named the SHL).[19] This caused speculation as to whether they wanted to join the KHL or create a new league as an expansion of the Nordic Trophy. None of the clubs officially said that they wanted to stop playing in the Elitserien, although the seven remaining clubs drew such conclusions.[20] The quarrel was resolved on 16 November 2011, when the plans were officially put down. All clubs agreed to continue their operation in Elitserien.[21][22]

In November 2009, the KHL and AIK IF from Stockholm, Sweden (at that time playing in the HockeyAllsvenskan) signed a document inviting AIK to become a member of the KHL, and join the league beginning in the 2010–11 season, provided that AIK observed all the terms and conditions, and met all KHL admission criteria.[23] AIK's interest was largely due to the club's serious financial problems at that time, however, in the end, AIK were unable to join after the plan was rejected by the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.[24] Later during the 2009–10 season, AIK were promoted back to the top Swedish league, which stabilized their finances for the time being.

According to Russia Today News, Finnish team Kärpät from Liiga is also interested.[25] Another real candidate from Finland may be the Espoo Blues.[26] Jokerit Helsinki will join the KHL for the 2014-2015 season. On June 28, 2013, Harry Harkimo announced that he had sold Hartwall Areena, the home rink of Jokerit, to Finnish-Russian businessmen Gennady Timchenko (president of HC SKA), Arkady Rotenberg (chairman of HC Dynamo Moscow) and Boris Rotenberg (co-owner of SKA), along with a share of the team. Harkimo will remain the majority owner and the manager of the team. Jokerit will be the first Finnish team, as well as first Nordic team, to join the KHL.

Eastern Europe[edit]

The Belarus Ice Hockey Federation has announced that it plans to include up to four Belarussian teams in the KHL, with league VP Vladimir Shalaev confirming the prospect of adding a second Belarussian KHL team for the 2009-10 season.[13][27] Of these, Yunost Minsk, along with HK Homiel (which may relocate to Babruysk due to arena complications) of the Belarusian Extraleague, are actively taking steps to join the KHL.[27][28]

Ukraine's Sokil Kyiv has attempted to join, but financial issues have delayed a bid. They have a new 12,000 seat arena due in 2012 and are currently in negotiation with the KHL to join in the near future. President of the Hockey Federation of Ukraine, Anatoliy Brezvin, stated "I can not say under what brand it will be [...] Sokil, HC Kyiv or some other. But there is some agreement that the next season will be [a] team from Ukraine, with Ukrainian players in the KHL."[29] Also from Kyiv, the expansion HC Budivelnyk had signed letters of intent and planned on joining the KHL for the 2010-11 season, but support fell through due to bureaucratic complications with the arena. Budivelnyk had even signed several players and personnel in order to ice a team for the coming season. HC Berkut has stated its goals are to build a new arena and join the KHL.[30]

It is possible that the KHL will have a new team from Vilnius, Lithuania. In Autumn 2009, KHL's SKA Petersburg and Bars Kazan played an exhibition game there, with more such games likely in the future. The main hurdles to be overcome for bringing a team there is funding, as well the fact that basketball is very popular in the region.[31] The team would be called Vėtra Vilnius, and would be an expansion of the Sports Association Vėtra.[32]

The owners of Polish club Olivia, based in Gdańsk, have applied for a new team, Oliva Gdansk, to join the KHL and play home games at Ergo Arena.[33]

Russia[edit]

Krylya Sovetov had declared interest to join the league for the 2010-11 season.[34]

Another potential candidate city for expansion is Sochi. The 2014 Winter Olympics will result in huge amounts of investment in the city, with one result being the construction of the Bolshoi Palace arena. It is possible that the city may see a new team or relocated team there by the start of the Olympics.[31] The mayor of Sochi has reciprocated this goal.[35]

North Asia[edit]

The Island of Sakhalin in the Russian Far East might receive a team in the future. HC Rys', of the Higher Hockey League, is in negotiations to relocate the team there. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the largest city on the island, has a population of almost 200,000. Plans are in the works to build a new arena in the city by 2011.[31]

Kazzinc-Torpedo, currently playing in the Higher Hockey League, has been in negotiations to join the KHL.[36] The club, formerly known as Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk, used to play in the highest division during the Soviet era. Torpedo has typically been the most dominant developmental club in Kazakhstan. Most Kazakh players who have reached the NHL trace their roots to Torpedo.[37]

East Asia[edit]

Some people have expressed hopes of expanding the KHL into several countries in East Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea and even North Korea.[38]

Teams currently involved[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "У министра конструктивная позиция по легионерам". 2014-04-22. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  3. ^ Welcome, Jokerit and Sochi; welcome back, Lada
  4. ^ a b "Eye on Europe: Supersized KHL?". TheHockeyNews.com. 2009-10-16. 
  5. ^ ЮРИН, Владимир (2008-05-16). "ЧЕРЕЗ ГОД БУДЕМ ИГРАТЬ С "КАРЛОВЫМИ ВАРАМИ"" (in Russian). Sport-Express. 
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