The aim of the KHL is not to crown a new champion every season, but to see the strongest rise to the top in a fair and even contest. We’re doing everything we can to achieve this, including making progress towards the establishment of a hard salary cap.
But today isn’t about that. We’ve seen the end of the official KHL season. We’ve seen a triumph for hockey in a blazing encounter between two great teams. It was a battle without compromise and nobody could say that Avangard did not play its part, even though the final series finished 4-0. They battled to the end and both teams showed some great hockey.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank our hockey fans for their dedication to the game. We had an audience of millions watching on TV, the arena was full. But, most important, we saw hockey with no quarter asked and none given. It’s clear that CSKA has come a long way. A really strong coaching staff and a great roster, a new arena and the support of its fans – all this came together to give CSKA the chance to win the Gagarin Cup for the first time and become the first club to win the regular season and the playoffs.
And we mustn’t overlook Avangard. First and foremost, we should pay tribute to the efforts they have made towards their fans after the problems with the arena in Omsk. I’m sure there will soon be a new arena. In the meantime, though, the club didn’t abandon its supporters. During the final we took the Gagarin Cup to Omsk, the club set up fan zones in the cities where supporters could gather to watch the games. And here in Balashikha, many fans travelled from Siberia to root for their team. It’s also encouraging to see how people in Balashikha itself came here to support Avangard.
In summary, it’s been a great festival of hockey. I note that we had two big Conference finals – 13 games in total – and now we’ve had four great games in the Gagarin Cup final.
Do you feel the new rules to allow for video reviews justified themselves?
I think it was clear during the regular season that the answer was ‘no’. Most reviews didn’t add to the spectacle, they merely disrupted the rhythm of the game and reduced the number of goals. We follow the laws of the IIHF, which are also the rules that apply at the World Championship. We’ve already discussed this with IIHF President Rene Fasel and hopefully we can make some changes so that next season we don’t spend so much time discussing the trajectory of a player’s skate like we did after one of the games in this year’s final. For us, the main thing is to see more goals.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is paying attention to the development of the KHL. For example, he recently spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the desire of French clubs to play in the KHL. I hope that we will see new teams joining us from the East and the West and to accommodate them we will need to create new divisions. Right now a working party is exploring the logistics to ensure that teams in Europe have as few trips as possible to the Far East. Most likely, the regular championship will be arranged on geographical lines and then in the playoffs there will be more need for flights.