Since the NHL has officially missed regular season games due to the lockout, hockey fans are beginning to focus their attention on the game’s substitute premier league, the KHL. Many of the NHL’s big name stars have taken their talents to Eastern Europe for the duration of the lockout in order to stay in playing shape and pick up missed paychecks in the process. The result of this superstar movement is a quality product that all hockey fans can enjoy in the absence of our North American brand.
Formed in 2008, the Kontinental Hockey League is considered the best hockey league in all of Europe and second strongest internationally, behind our beloved NHL. The KHL is made up of twenty-six teams, twenty of which are located in Russia. The other six franchises are based in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The league is divided into two conferences, East and West, just like the NHL. Those conferences are divided into two geographically designated divisions. Each team plays a fifty-two game schedule, culminating in a sixteen-team playoff. The winner of the KHL’s playoff is awarded the Gagarin Cup, named after pioneer cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
The current KHL season began on September 4th, so its definitely not to late to catch up with the action and pick a team to follow. ESPN has made following the KHL much easier too. Starting this month, the network will be broadcasting a series of Kontinental League games on ESPN 2 and ESPN3.com. Here’s ESPN3′s programming schedule:
Dynamo Moscow vs Ak Bars on Oct. 3rd;
Lev vs SKA on Oct. 6th;
Slovan vs Dynamo Moscow on Oct. 7th;
CSKA vs SKA on Oct. 8th;
Lev vs Dynamo Moscow on Oct. 9th.
Only one member of the Blues is currently listed on a KHL roster, and he’s never skated for the Bluenotes. Russian phenom Vladimir Teresanko is currently under contract with St. Louis, but the lockout has delayed his NHL debut. He is playing for SKA Saint Petersburg, skating alongside New Jersey’s superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. Here’s eliteprospect.com’s updated list of NHL players who are currently playing in the KHL: