Before we begin, it sounds like the KHL experienced a few scheduling problems this year in planning out their season. KHL Hockey Operations Vice-President Vladimir Shalaev said, "[H]ardly any of the clubs in the KHL own their home arenas. Lev of Prague, for instance, has notified us of 39 days on which the rink is unavailable for home games during the coming season. We also sympathize with Salavat Yulaev, who will have a long and arduous spell on the road during the winter while Ufa hosts the 2013 World Junior Championships. The team is also due to play on New Year's Eve in the Spengler Cup."
Despite Mr. Shalaev's complaints about the scheduling in certain arenas, the 2012-13 KHL season will feature the following highlights this year.
The opening night of the KHL's newest season will begin on September 4 in Moscow as last year's finalists - Dynamo Moscow and Avangard Omsk - will meet for the Lokomotiv Cup in memory of the tragedy that occurred last season. As you may remember, Dynamo Moscow won the Gagarin Cup last season, so they'll be looking to add another piece of hardware to their trophy case.
In memory of their fallen comrades, the KHL has declared that no games be played on September 7. September 7, 2012 marks the first anniversary of hockey's worst tragedy in the game's history, and I commend the KHL for this move. The loss of the players and coaching staff of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv last season should never be forgotten as 45 people had their lives and the lives of their families torn apart by this tragedy. Good on the KHL for recognizing the gravity of the situation.
The fifth KHL All-Star Game will take place on January 12 and 13 in Chelyabinsk. Home to Traktor Chelyabinsk, the city's 1.13 million people will get a chance to see the KHL's best players compete in the annual KHL Skills Competition before the KHL All-Star Game as well. The two captains have yet to be announced, but expect Sandis Ozolinsh and Sergei Fedorov to remain as the figureheads for the two teams as they were last season. Just as a note, Chelyabinsk is approximately 1750km east of Moscow - a 23-hour drive on the M7 - for those that are looking to attend the game this season. PLan your travels accordingly!
One week after the KHL All-Star Game, the KHL lands in North America as there will be two games played in the brand-new Barclay's Center in New York City. The borough of Brooklyn will welcome reigning KHL champion Dynamo Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg to the new arena in two games being played on January 19 and 20. More details surrounding the events associated with these games will be announced as these dates near.
The season will run 52 games for each team. The final games will be played on February 17 with the Gagarin Cup Playoffs beginning on February 20. Each playoff round will be a seven-game series, and the final game of the Gagarin Cup Final has been marked as April 19, 2013.
Each team will play against every other team twice – once at home and once as the visitors. There will be an additional pair of games, one at home and one on the road, between the following pairings:
- Ak Bars – Salavat Yulaev
- Amur – Atlant
- Barys – Avangard
- CSKA – Spartak
- Dinamo Riga – Dinamo Minsk
- Dynamo Moscow – SKA
- Lev – Slovan
- Lokomotiv – Severstal
- Metallurg Magnitogorsk – Traktor
- Metallurg Novokuznetsk – Sibir
- Torpedo – Neftekhimik
- Vityaz – Donbass
- Yugra – Avtomobilist
There are your outlined highlights. The regular season schedule can be downloaded in Adobe format here if you'd like a hard-copy. Personally, I'm excited to see the new teams in action in the KHL, and I want to see if Dynamo Moscow can successfully defend their title this season!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!