The KHL’s Chinese team, Kunlun Red Star, could be forced to look at playing at least part of the coming season away from its home in Beijing. As league president Alexei Morozov told KHL.ru, the situation in China remains complicated after the coronavirus outbreak and the easing of restrictions on travel and public events might not start until the fall. “That’s why we have already put forward several options for Red Star to relocate at the start of the season,” Morozov said. “These include cities in the East of Russia, such as Vladivostok where we already have everything in place to stage KHL games, or Krasnoyarsk, where a modern arena has been built. There are also options in the European part of Russia. But all these options could pose problems when devising the schedule for the new season because it’s possible things will change as the season progresses.”
Although Admiral Vladivostok has already announced it will not compete in the 13th KHL season, every other team in the league is still planning to take part. All 23 of them have submitted the necessary financial details to the KHL. “In the current environment, everyone — not just in sports — is reviewing and re-analyzing plans and budgets,” Morozov said. “The league has reviewed the financial documents submitted by each of the clubs and will present its opinion to the KHL Board of Directors who will make a final decision on the competing teams for the coming season.”
As part of Russia’s efforts to control the spread of coronavirus, there are strict restrictions on who can obtain a visa and enter the country from abroad. Inevitably, that has an impact on sports, with many foreign players, coaches and staff due to play a part in next season’s championship. “Right now there are specific problems for foreigners wishing to obtain visas and travel to Russia,” Morozov admitted. “We’re actively working with the Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve this as quickly as possible. Whenever we have new communications from our clubs, we’re working to find ways of helping them solve these problems.”
As top-level sport returns across Europe this month, many tournaments have played in empty arenas. The KHL is monitoring this, and hopes to be able to welcome fans back to the arenas as soon as safely possible. “We can see how our colleagues in other sports have restarted their seasons. Of course we will base our decisions on the situations in the various countries represented in the KHL,” Morozov said. “But we hope that fans will have the opportunity to come and cheer for their teams in person. Everyone is missing hockey.
“However, the biggest task for the KHL and our clubs is to ensure the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff. Health is our top priority.”
New Spartak forward Roman Lyubimov is moving to Moscow from Magnitogorsk — and all because of Red-and-White head coach Oleg Znarok. The two worked together before at the 2016 World Championship, and the three-time Gagarin Cup winner made a big impact on the forward. “Not long ago you had a poll where players were asked which coach they most wanted to play for, and Znarok came out on top,” the ex-Flyer said an in exclusive interview with KHL.ru. “After a conversation with him, all my questions about my future were answered. I knew I wanted to play for him. He really gets the team, he knows how to find the right approach to the whole roster, and also to each individual player. I’d like to think I’m a perfect fit for his style of hockey, but only the coming season will tell.”
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Russia, shake hands with everyone. That’s the big advice from Nick Bailen for anyone coming into the KHL. The Traktor defenseman is gearing up for his fourth season at Traktor and his seventh in the league and, as a veteran import, is well placed to pick up on the subtle differences between hockey here and elsewhere. “The main thing I always tell the guys is to make sure you walk around and shake everybody’s hand in the morning or their going to get pissed off,” he said. “I think I have an understanding that back from the World War times they would basically shake hands with everyone be like ‘Oh, it’s nice to see you, it’s nice that you’re still alive’, you know? It takes time for North Americans to get used to that.
“But mostly, just go with the flow. Don’t stress about the little things. Put your ego aside for a little bit of that stuff and just sit wherever and eat wherever you have to.”