Let’s talk a little more about the reform that the FHR wants to change the long-term way of life of the KHL. To be honest, when I first heard that the federation was proposing to split the league, I had no feelings other than disappointment and anger. Like, well, how long can you get into our club hockey, and even offer to cut off a whole group of teams in regions where they love this game?!

But such emotion was dictated by insufficient knowledge. After all, a month ago, and even the day before yesterday, until the FHR finally rolled out a normal explanation of its idea, it seemed that the federation was trying to simply cut off the top clubs from everyone else, create a closed world for the elite and offer everyone else (who are not lucky to have major sponsor) to fight solely for the right to be among the elect. In this form, the reform would very quickly lead to disastrous consequences for many clubs: even the slightest amount of decent money would cease to be invested in our middle peasants, and all this would lead to the complete collapse of teams on the periphery, the collapse of local schools and so on. As a clear example, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, in the expulsion of which from the KHL, someone even saw advantages for this club.

A new round of slavery instead of development.  Why the KHL has fallen on particularly difficult times
A new round of slavery instead of development. Why the KHL has fallen on particularly difficult times

But the FHR explained what it meant, and it turned out that the reform, although it involves the division of the league, does not at all imply indiscriminate discrimination against those teams that do not have powerful patrons: everyone has a chance to get into the playoffs, and the representatives of the “second echelon” they are even higher than before.

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And with such a project, you can not only put up with it – you even want to support it. And not a word about the interests of the Russian team! The KHL should have nothing to do with them at all. Just reforming the league proposed by the FHR, in my opinion, plays into the hands of both the KHL itself and its viewers.

So what’s good about the new concept? Increase in matches between top teams. I know, I know that many are skeptical about this, believing that in this situation, top matches will quickly turn into a boring routine. But I do not share this opinion. Still, it is proposed to place not two, three or four teams in the “elite” division, but 12 – this is quite enough for a change. I agree that, for example, the meetings between SKA and CSKA put someone on edge, but this is just one duel. The same army team will play at least four times with eleven more teams, plus there will be meetings with clubs from another division. Well, is it going to be boring and monotonous?

But the main advantage of combining the top clubs into one group is the convergence of the giants of the West and the East. Now in the KHL, Ak Bars meets CSKA only twice a season, and Lokomotiv meets Avangard. This is just an example, but in general our league lacks matches between top teams from different conferences. Will you argue with this? The proposed reform will make the battles of the KHL giants regular, regardless of their geographical location, plus it will combine them into a common table. It seems to me that this will add entertainment, interest, and objectivity.

CSKA - Ak Bars match

CSKA – Ak Bars match

Photo: Alexander Fedorov, photo.khl.ru

In addition, an increase in top matches could benefit clubs from ticket sales. There is a fairly large category of fans who go to stadiums only for games with a sign. They prefer to watch the rest of the matches on TV, although they have the means to go to the arena. But it’s just too lazy to go to a priori not catchy duel. With the new structure, there is a chance that the number of sofa viewers will decrease.

The most important plus that I see in the proposed reform is the mixed playoffs. I think many are already tired of the constant meetings between SKA and CSKA in the Western Conference finals, in the East everything is much better with competition, but the same duels are starting to get boring there too. The common table will add options for new pairs, plus increase the unpredictability of the Gagarin Cup grid. I think it will be better for everyone.

The West of the KHL has completely degraded.  It’s worth sending Ak Bars there or entering a general table
The West of the KHL has completely degraded. It’s worth sending Ak Bars there or entering a general table

With all this, I do not at all believe that the reform proposed by the FHR is ideal. Of course, it has its downsides. They mainly relate to the position of teams from the second division: yes, all of them will get a chance to get into the playoffs and compete for the Gagarin Cup, but the regular season for such clubs will be flooded with endless matches with their own kind, and watching matches like Admiral many times – “Kunlun” or “Siberia” – Amur “is a dubious pleasure even for fans of these clubs. Plus, the very principle of dividing clubs into divisions based on the unfinished past championship raises questions – not only, say, for Avtomobilist, but also for, for example, a permanent participant in the playoffs of Barys.

Sending the clubs in the second division to stew in their own juice is not of the highest quality – a key drawback of the new concept. However, the situation can be looked at in a different way. The conditional “Vityaz”, having a bunch of matches with teams of approximately equal level, has more chances, firstly, to please its audience with victories, and secondly, to reach the playoffs. In addition, for the vast majority of teams, the ending of the regular season will not turn into a formality. After all, according to the proposed reform, play-offs between the teams of two divisions are planned, and as a result, after the end of the regular season, no more than four clubs will lose their chances for the playoffs.

Just imagine that the same “Admiral”, in order to qualify for an extension of the season, will not have to fight in an unequal battle for eighth place in the strongest Eastern Conference, but only try to overtake the conditional “Kunlun” and “Amur” and get into the joints. Is it bad for fans from Vladivostok? And for the fans of some other teams, who, most likely, until the very end of the regular season will go to something meaningful matches. Not as usual.


Match “Admiral” – “Siberia”

Photo: Dmitry Soroka, photo.khl.ru

So there are definitely advantages to the reform. Many are frightened by the harshness of the proposed changes – but upon thoughtful and careful consideration, it turns out that there is no crime, but there is an intriguing novelty in many moments.

Also, many do not like the very format of dividing clubs into castes, but here, it seems to me, we need to face the truth – this division happened a long time ago, it just did not take shape officially. No general leveling, no increase in really competitive teams in the KHL is expected either in the third or in the tenth year of the hard salary cap. This is because this ceiling in Russian conditions is intended solely to bring all the rich to one denominator. And he certainly is not able to make the league truly equal.

In the KHL, those who have a powerful sponsor will still be on horseback. And the best players will still strive to play in those clubs who are on horseback. After the introduction of a hard ceiling, outsiders have not ceased to be outsiders, because they don’t care about this ceiling – they could reach the floor. And raising the level of the floor will only mean that poor clubs will simply fall off from the KHL, being unable to provide financial guarantees. After all, no one will force their owners to allocate more money for hockey, and it is unrealistic for clubs to earn money on their own in our realities.

The new name of the arena in Omsk is the norm.  Avangard wants to make money, not receive
The new name of the arena in Omsk is the norm. Avangard wants to make money, not receive

We are naive to look up to the NHL. There, hockey lives according to the laws of business: the clubs and the league make money themselves. Our hockey is firmly based on a gratuitous sponsorship and budgetary needle, the clubs are unprofitable and, in fact, are the toys of the oligarchs and the largest companies. Sorry to whom this is a blow or a revelation.

Under such conditions, the equality of more than twenty clubs is impossible. And now the FHR, probably pursuing its goals related to the national team, but still offers the KHL a completely reasonable idea – to stop playing equalization and streamline the teams in accordance with their status and ambitions, while not infringing on anyone’s interests.
In my opinion it’s worth a try. If not from the next season (here the arguments of Alexei Morozov are absolutely fair), then from the next one.


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