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The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) ( ) is an international professional ice hockey league in Eurasia founded in 2008. As of 2009, it is ranked as the strongest hockey league in Europe.

The Gagarin Cup, named after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, is awarded annually to the league champion, following a 16-team playoff at the end of the regular season. Two teams from the KHL were guaranteed qualification into the Champions Hockey League season.

The league was formed in 2008 from a predecessor organization, the Russian Superleague (RSL). The RSL, in turn, was a successor to the Soviet Championship League, which was founded in 1946 with only five teams. The KHL began its operations with 24 teams, 21 of which are based in the Russian Federationmarker with the remaining 3 located in Belarusmarker, Latviamarker, and Kazakhstanmarker.

Russians constitute a large majority of the players in the KHL because of its origins as the Soviet & Russian national league. A minority of the players are from other Eastern European and Northern European countries, with an influx of Canadiansmarker beginning to sign on with clubs as the league gains prominence. In 2009, there were 775 players in the league.


Though now not as restrictive in maintaining an exclusively Russian composition of players and teams, Russian teams are still prevented from signing more than five foreign players and can suit up no more than four in any single game. Foreign goaltenders have an additional limit regarding total seasonal ice time.

Prior to the inaugural season, several KHL teams have signed several players from the NHL. 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), leading to an investigation by the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Notable active players

The top five point scoring players in the 2008–09 season were Sergei Mozyakin, Jan Marek, Aleksey Morozov, Danis Zaripov and Kevin Dallman. The top goal scorers were Jan Marek and Pavel Brendl with 35 each, followed by Sergei Mozyakin and Danis Zaripov (34). The top plus-minus rating went to Alexei Tereshchenko who was a +41. The top goaltenders (by wins) were Georgy Gelashvili (30), Alexander Eremenko (27), Konstantin Barulin (24), Martin Prusek and Vitali Eremeev (22).

Season structure

During the regular season, each team plays 56 games: four games against each of the teams in their own division (for a total of 20 games) and two games against each of the other teams (for a total of 36 games).

For the 2009–10 season, the play-off structure will be slightly adjusted, to reflect the splitting of the league into two conferences.The eight top-ranked teams in each conference will receive playoff berths. Each conference will play quarterfinals, semifinals and finals before the two conference winner play against each other for the Gagarin Cup. The division winners are seeded 1 and 2 in each conference, based on their ranking relative to the other (like in the NHL). The first playoff round will be best-of-five series, and the final three rounds will be best-of-seven series. After each round, the top remaining seed will always be paired against the lowest remaining seed.

In the play-offs, overtime periods will last 20 minutes or until the sudden death goal. The number of overtime periods is not limited. Teams that failed to enter the playoffs will play their own tournament to determine the KHL junior draft first choice in 2010.

Current teams

For the 2009–10 season, the teams will be geographically aligned to aid travel conditions. The league will be divided into a western and an eastern conference, each containing two divisions of six teams. Khimik Voskresensk will be replaced by Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, keeping the number of teams at 24.


2008–09 Season

The first KHL season began on 2 September 2008. Winner of the regular season was Salavat Yulaev Ufa with 129 points from 56 games. Top scorer was Atlant's Sergei Mozyakin with 76 points (34 goals and 42 assists). The play-offs produced a major upset as the 16th placed team, Avangard Omsk defeated top seed Ufa in the first round. The Gagarin Cup was won by Ak Bars Kazan who defeated Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in a seven games play-off final.

2009–10 Season

The second season sees several changes, most notably, the division will be aligned according to geographical criteria and Khimik Voskresensk will be replaced by Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. The regular season started on 10 September 2009.

Trophies and awards

For the 2008-09 season, the winner of the Gagarin Cup was named both the KHL champion as well as the Russian Champion. For the 2009-10 season, the team that places highest in regular season standings will be awarded the Russian Championship.

The KHL presents annual awards to its most successful players. In 2009, a total of 23 trophies in various categories were awarded. Among the winners were Danis Zaripov (regular season MVP), Alexei Morozov (play-off MVP) and Ilya Proskuryakov (rookie of the year).

The KHL also holds an annual "Opening Cup" match between the Gagarin Cup winner and the runner-up. This year's game will be held on September 10 in Kazan.

See also


  1. KHL to match NHL in five years RT, 2009-05-15
  3. Emery signs one-year deal with Russian team -
  4. Radulov on His Return to Russia - NHL FanHouse
  5. Predator inks debatable deal -
  6. KHL Board Of Directors Approved Championship Structure
  7. Kontinental Hockey League Awarded Laureates Of 2008/2009 Season, 2009-05-15

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