Kontinental Hockey League
2015–16 KHL season
KHL logo shield 2016
Sport Ice hockey
Founded 2008
CEO Alexander Medvedev
Motto Хоккей – наша игра! Khokkey - nasha igra! (Hockey is our game!)[1]
No. of teams 28
Country(ies) Flag of Belarus.svg Belarus (1 team)
Flag of Croatia.svg Croatia (1 team)
Flag of Finland.svg.png Finland (1 team)
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg.png Kazakhstan (1 team)
Flag of Latvia.svg Latvia (1 team)
Flag of Russia.svg.png Russia (22 teams)
Flag of Slovakia.svg.png Slovakia (1 team)
Most recent champion(s) Flag of Russia.svg Metallurg Mednogorsk (2nd title)
Most championship(s) Flag of Russia.svg Ak Bars Kazan (2)
Flag of Russia.svg Dynamo Moscow (2)
Flag of Russia.svg Metallurg Mednogorsk (2)
Official website
Related competitions Supreme Hockey League (VHL)
Junior Hockey League (MHL)
KHL logo shield

Original logo until 2016

The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) (Russian: Континентальная хоккейная лига, Kontinental'naya khokkeynaya liga) is an international professional ice hockey league in Eurasia founded in 2008. It is commonly considered to be the strongest hockey league in Europe, and the second-best in the world.

The league was formed in 2008, from a predecessor organization, the Russian Superleague (RSL). The KHL began its operations with 24 teams. After minor changes in the composition of the Russian teams and even a reduction to 23 teams for two seasons, the league expanded to 26 teams for the 2012–13 season: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl returned after missing last season due to the air disaster in 2011, Slovan Bratislava from Slovakia and HC Donbass from Donetsk, Ukraine joined the league, while Lev Poprad were replaced by Lev Praha, a team with the same name, but based in Prague, Czech Republic. Thus, for the first time, the league consists of 26 teams, of which 20 are based in Russia and 6 more are located in Belarus, Croatia, Finland, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and Slovakia.

The winner of the 16-team playoff after the end of the regular season is awarded the Gagarin Cup, named after the first man to reach space and orbit the Earth, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. The title of Champion of Russia is given to the highest ranked Russian team.

Russians constitute a large majority of the players in the KHL because of its origins as the Soviet and Russian national league. Players not from Russia represent a minority of 33% of the KHL players, and are mostly Eastern European (17.0%), Scandinavian (7.7%), and North American (4.6%). In 2011–12, there were 701 players in the league.

Despite the word "Continental" traditionally being spelled with a C and not a K in the English language, the KHL transliterates the word with a K to distinguish it from numerous leagues that are abbreviated as CHL, such as the Canadian Hockey League and the Central Hockey League, and so that its abbreviation can look similar in both the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets.

Team changesEdit

In season 2009-10 joined team Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg and Khimik Voskresensk was transferred to a lower league. Next season joined HC Yugra.

After several attempts by teams from Central Europe and Scandinavia to join the KHL, expansion beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union was finally realized in 2011. Lev Poprad, a newly founded team based in Poprad, Slovakia was admitted to the league. But after only one season, Lev was replaced by a team of the same name, Lev Praha, from Prague, Czech Republic, while Slovan Bratislava from Slovakia and Ukraine's Donbass joined the KHL as expansion teams.[2] Lev and Slovan managed to draw considerable public interest and qualified for the play-offs in their first KHL season.

In 2013 Medveščak from Croatia and Russian Admiral Vladivostok joined the league, thus expanding the league even further.[3] The league comprised 28 teams during the 2013-14 season, of which 21 are based in Russia and 7 more are located in the other countries.

In 2014 Finnish team Jokerit from Helsinki, Lada Togliatti (which previously played in the league), and a newly created team named HC Sochi have joined the league.[4] However, HC Donbass do not play in the league this season, due to the political instability in Ukraine, but intend to rejoin for the 2015–16 season.[5] Two other teams, Lev Praha and Spartak Moscow, also withdrew from the 2014-2015 season due to financial problems.[6][7]

Prior to the 2015–16 season, Atlant Moscow Oblast withdrew from the KHL and on the contrary Spartak Moscow is returning to the league.[8]

The Chinese club HC Kunlun Red Star were admitted for the 2016–17 season.[9]

Season structureEdit

Since 2009, the league is divided into East and West conferences. In the current season, each conference includes 14 teams divided into two divisions, 7 teams per division. During the regular season, each team plays 60 games: four games against each team in their own division, two games against each of the remaining teams in the same conference, one game against each team of the other conference and 8 extra games against selected opponents.

The eight top-ranked teams in each conference receive playoff berths. Within each conference quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are played before the conference winners play against each other for the Gagarin Cup. The division winners are seeded first and second in their conference, based on their regular season record. All playoff rounds are played as best-of-seven series. In each round, the top seeded remaining team is paired with the lowest seeded team etc.[16] In the playoffs, overtime periods last 20 minutes (or until a goal is scored). The number of overtime periods is not limited.

In the 2012–13 season, the Nadezhda Cup (Cup of Hope) was introduced, a consolation tournament for the teams who did not qualify for the playoffs. The winning team in the tournament wins the first overall pick in the KHL Junior Draft. The tournament is intended to extend the season and help maintain interest in hockey in the cities of these teams, and help players of national teams prepare for upcoming World Championship.


Though now not as restrictive in maintaining an exclusively Russian composition of players and teams, Russian teams are still not allowed to sign more than five foreign players, while non-Russian teams must have at least five players from their respective country. Foreign goaltenders on Russian teams have a limit regarding total seasonal ice time.

Prior to the inaugural season, several KHL teams signed several players from the NHL.[19] A dispute between the two leagues over some of these signings was supposed to have been resolved by an agreement signed on July 10, 2008, whereby each league would honor the contracts of the other, but the signing of Alexander Radulov was made public one day after the agreement (though it was actually signed two days prior to the agreement taking effect),[20] leading to an investigation by the International Ice Hockey Federation.[21] On October 4, 2010, the conflict between the leagues was settled when both signed a new agreement to honor one another's contracts.

The league set up rules for the NHL lockout which lasted from 16 September 2012 to 12 January 2013. According to the special regulations, each KHL team was allowed to add up to three NHL players to its roster, among them at most one foreign player. More than 40 NHL players, the majority of them Russians, played in the KHL during the lockout.

KHL players are represented by the Kontinental Hockey League Players' Trade Union.


Founding (2008)Edit

The KHL was founded in 2008 with 24 teams, the 20 teams from the last season of the Russian Superleague as well as the champion of the 2007–08 season of the second division. In addition, one team each from Latvia, Belarus and Kazakhstan were included. The teams were divided into 4 divisions, based on the performance in previous seasons. The first season got under way on 2 September 2008 and ended in April 2009 with Ak Bars Kazan becoming the first ever winner of the Gagarin Cup.

Introduction of conferences (2009)Edit

In an effort to reduce the large travel distances for the teams, the second season saw the introduction of two conferences (East and West) and the re-alignment of the divisions according to geographical criteria. Despite efforts to expand the league to Central and Western Europe, only minor changes in the compositions of the Russian teams happened in the first three seasons. In the Gagarin Cup finals, teams from the East dominated with Ak Bars Kazan winning twice and Salavat Yulaev Ufa once.

Yaroslavl air disaster (2011)Edit

The start of the fourth season was overshadowed by the Yaroslavl air disaster on 7 September 2011 in which almost the entire team of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was killed shortly after take-off for their flight to their season opening game in Minsk. The Opening Cup game in Ufa, which was already under way when news of the disaster arrived, was abandoned and the start of the season postponed by five days. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was forced to withdraw from the KHL season, but later played part of the VHL season and returned to the KHL in 2012.

Expansion to Central Europe (2011 and 2012)Edit

After several failed attempts of teams from Central Europe and Scandinavia to join the KHL, expansion beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union was finally realized in 2011. Lev Poprad, a newly founded team based in Poprad, Slovakia was admitted to the league. Lev failed to reach the play-offs, but managed to draw considerable interest and sold out many of their home matches. For the 2012–13 season, Lev is replaced by a team of the same name, Lev Praha, from Prague, Czech Republic, while Slovan Bratislava from Slovakia and Ukraine's HC Donbass join the KHL.[10]

Seasons overviewEdit

SeasonGagarin Cup Winner Gagarin Cup finalist Continental Cup Winner Top scorer
2008–09Flag of Russia.svg Ak Bars KazanFlag of Russia.svg Lokomotiv YaroslavlFlag of Russia.svg Salavat Yulaev Ufa* (129 points)Flag of Russia.svg Sergei Mozyakin (76 points: 34 G, 42 A)
2009–10 Flag of Russia.svg Ak Bars KazanFlag of Russia.svg HC MVDFlag of Russia.svg Salavat Yulaev Ufa (129 points)Flag of Russia.svg Sergei Mozyakin (66 points: 27 G, 39 A)
2010–11Flag of Russia.svg Salavat Yulaev UfaFlag of Russia.svg Atlant Moscow Oblast Flag of Russia.svg Avangard Omsk (118 points) Flag of Russia.svg Alexander Radulov (80 points: 20 G, 60 A)
2011–12Flag of Russia.svg Dynamo MoscowFlag of Russia.svg Avangard OmskFlag of Russia.svg Traktor Chelyabinsk (114 points)Flag of Russia.svg Alexander Radulov (63 points: 25 G, 38 A)
2012–13Flag of Russia.svg Dynamo MoscowFlag of Russia.svg Traktor ChelyabinskFlag of Russia.svg SKA Saint Petersburg (115 points)Flag of Russia.svg Sergei Mozyakin (76 points: 35 G, 41 A)
2013–14 Flag of Russia.svg Metallurg Magnitogorsk Flag of the Czech Republic.svg HC Lev Praha Flag of Russia.svg Dynamo Moscow (115 points) Flag of Russia.svg Sergei Mozyakin (73 points: 34 G, 39 A)
2014–15 SKA Saint Petersburg Ak Bars Kazan CSKA Moscow (139 points) Alexander Radulov (71 points: 24 G, 47 A)
2015–16 Metallurg Magnitogorsk CSKA Moscow CSKA Moscow (127 points) Sergei Mozyakin (67 points: 32 G, 35 A)

*: In the first season, Salavat Yulaev Ufa was the winner of the regular season, but the Continental Cup was not yet awarded.

Trophies and awardsEdit


Gagarin Cup

The winner of the playoff is awarded the Gagarin Cup, the KHL Champion title and the Russian Champion title, regardless of the country the club represents. The team ranked first in the standings after the regular season, i.e. the winner of the regular season, is awarded the Continental Cup[11] (Russian: Кубок Континента, Kubok Kontinenta). The winners of the conference finals are awarded the Eastern Conference Champion Cup (Russian: Кубок Победителю конференции Восток, Kubok Pobeditelyu konferentsii Vostok) and the Western Conference Champion Cup (Russian: Кубок Победителю конференции Запад, Kubok Pobeditelyu konferentsii Zapad).[12]

The KHL also awards the Opening Cup annually to the winner of the first game between the Gagarin Cup winner and the runner-up of the previous season. On September 10, 2011, three days after the 2011 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster, the KHL head office decided to honor the deceased in the 2011 Opening Cup.[13]

Season Opening Cup Winner Nadezhda Cup Winner Gold Stick Award (MVP)
2008–09 Flag of Russia.svg Salavat Yulaev Ufa not contested Flag of Russia.svg Danis Zaripov
2009–10 Flag of Russia.svg Ak Bars Kazan Flag of Russia.svg Alexander Radulov
2010–11 Flag of Russia.svg Dynamo Moscow Flag of Russia.svg Alexander Radulov
2011–12 Flag of Russia.svg Salavat Yulaev Ufa Flag of Russia.svg Alexander Radulov
2012–13 Flag of Russia.svg Dynamo Moscow Flag of Latvia.svg Dinamo Riga Flag of Russia.svg Sergei Mozyakin
2013–14 Flag of Russia.svg Dynamo Moscow Flag of Russia.svg Avangard Omsk Sergei Mozyakin
2014–15 Metallurg Magnitogorsk Cancelled due to economic reasons Alexander Radulov
2015–16 CSKA Moscow Not contested Sergei Mozyakin

All-time team recordsEdit

Since its foundation in 2008, 34 different clubs have played in the KHL, and 30 of them have at least once qualified for the playoffs. Of the current 28 teams, only two have not yet played in the playoffs. The table gives the final regular-season ranks for all teams, with the playoff performance encoded in colors. The teams are ordered by their championship results.

Club 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Ak Bars Kazan 2 8 4 6 2 4 4 12
Metallurg Magnitogorsk 6 3 5 4 7 2 6 8
Dynamo Moscow[a] 7 5 6 3 4 1 3 6
Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 1 2 8 9 8 14 9
SKA Saint Petersburg 8 2 7 2 1 3 2 10
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl[b] 3 7 3 8 15 10 2
CSKA Moscow 4 12 19 18 6 12 1 1
Traktor Chelyabinsk 12 18 18 1 5 19 15 19
Avangard Omsk 16 11 1 5 3 20 8 5
Atlant Moscow Oblast 5 6 8 9 17 17 16
Lev Praha 15 5
HC MVD Balashikha 18 4
Sibir Novosibirsk 19 20 11 20 12 13 7 7
Jokerit Helsinki 5 3
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 14 9 15 17 14 25 22 16
Donbass Donetsk 18 6
Spartak Moscow 9 10 12 19 23 23 21
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 11 15 17 7 20 9 12 11
Barys Astana 15 14 14 10 10 7 11 17
Dinamo Riga 10 13 13 15 24 10 21 22
Severstal Cherepovets 17 16 9 11 11 18 17 27
Dinamo Minsk 22 17 16 13 19 26 9 18
Sochi 13 4
Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 10 14 16 22 25 23
Amur Khabarovsk 20 21 22 12 25 28 28 25
Slovan Bratislava 13 21 26 15
Admiral Vladivostok 16 19 13
Medveščak Zagreb 11 23 20
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 19 20 22 26 14 18 14
Lada Togliatti 13 22 24 26
Metallurg Novokuznetsk 21 24 23 16 21 27 27 28
Vityaz Chekhov 23 23 21 23 22 24 20 24
Lev Poprad 21
Khimik Voskresensk 24
Kunlun Red Star Beijing

Color Result
Red Gagarin Cup Winner
Yellow Runner-up
Green Conference finalist
Light Blue Conference semifinalist
Blue Qualified for playoffs
Purple Nadezhda Cup Winner
Light Gray Not qualified for playoffs
Gray Did not play in the season

 [a]: Includes record of Dynamo Moscow before the merger with HC MVD in 2010

 [b]: Did not participate in the 2011-12 season due to the deadly air disaster on September 7, 2011, that killed the entire team


  1. "Новый игровой ролик КХЛ "Пробка"" (in Russian). Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  2. "Lev from Slovakia to Prague". 2012-03-30. 
  3. "Medveščak to join the league from 2013-14 season". 2013-04-29. 
  4. "Welcome, Jokerit and Sochi; welcome back, Lada". 2014-04-30. Retrieved 2014-05-03. 
  5. "Donbass to miss 2014-15 season". 2014-06-19. Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
  6. "Naděje vyhasla. Lev Praha definitivně končí v KHL". 2014-07-01. Retrieved 2014-07-01. 
  7. "У министра конструктивная позиция по легионерам", 2014-04-22. Retrieved on 2014-05-10. 
  8. League confirms format for 2015-16 season
  9. KHL (2016-06-25). "It's Official! Kunlun Red Star joins the KHL". Retrieved 2016-06-26. 
  10. "Lev from Slovakia to Prague". 2012-03-30. 
  11. "Ufa’s first trophy". Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  12. "Новые трофеи Лиги". Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  13. "Официальное заявление КХЛ : Континентальная Хоккейная Лига (КХЛ)". Retrieved 13 May 2015. 

External links Edit

European Ice Hockey Leagues
International leagues

Alps Hockey League - Balkan Ice Hockey League - BeNe League - Kontinental Hockey League - MOL Liga

National leagues

Armenia - Austria - Belarus - Belgium - Bosnia and Herzegovina - Bulgaria - Croatia - Czech Republic - Denmark - Estonia - Finland - France - Georgia - Germany - Greece - Hungary - Iceland - Italy - Kazakhstan - Latvia - Lithuania - Luxembourg - Macedonia - Netherlands - Norway - Poland - Romania - Serbia - Slovakia - Slovenia - Spain - Sweden - Switzerland - Turkey - Ukraine - United Kingdom

Defunct leagues

Soviet Union - Russia - Czechoslovakia - Yugoslavia - West Germany - East Germany - Ireland - Luxembourg - Malta - Portugal - Alpenliga - Interliga - Inter-National League - North Sea Cup - Panonian League - Eastern European - Balkan League - Baltic League - Carpathian League - Slohokej Liga

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