The Continental Hockey League (KHL) became another notable tournament that faced a “covid crisis”. In early January, outbreaks of coronavirus were recorded in several of its clubs, which led to a series of postponements of matches. As a last resort in the fight against the crisis, the KHL is considering the possibility of suspending the regular season and extending the season.
Last weekend, the Kontinental Hockey League announced a meeting this week with representatives from its 24 clubs. It will be devoted to finding a solution to a complex problem that arose at the very beginning of January.
In the early days of 2022, the KHL faced something very similar to a “covid crisis”. Outbreaks of coronavirus occurred in at least four league clubs – CSKA, Salavat Yulaev, Riga Dynamo and Avtomobilist. In all cases, we are talking about a very large number of positive tests. So, 14 hockey players, 1 coach and 2 team representatives passed them to Dynamo, 17 representatives of the club passed them to CSKA. Salavat Yulaev and Avtomobilist have slightly less official losses, but still significant enough to exclude the possibility of going out on the ice. These outbreaks prompted the cancellation of a series of upcoming matches involving teams affected by the coronavirus.
And in total, the number of canceled meetings of the regular championship has already exceeded ten.
In December, the North American National Hockey League experienced a “covid crisis”. He was extremely sharp. Outbreaks of coronavirus affected most of the championship clubs, quarantining over a hundred hockey players and disrupting about seven dozen regular season matches. And in the list of their consequences there was also a resonant decision to cancel the promised participation of NHL players in the February Olympics in Beijing, which turned into a blow to its organizers and the International Olympic Committee, together with the stars of the league who probably lost the highest television ratings: they would be guaranteed to a hockey tournament, provided performances of the leading teams in the strongest lineups.
The situation in the KHL at the moment does not look so tough. Moreover, the domestic league, in its statement regarding the January events, stressed that, unlike the previous season, “there are group cases of the disease with a short incubation period”, and the disease is usually “asymptomatic.” At the same time, the KHL made it clear that, in any case, its priorities remain “preserving the health of the participants” of the championship and its full completion with play-offs and the determination of the owner of the Gagarin Cup, which remained unplayed the year before because of the pandemic.
To realize these goals, the KHL, having specified that while “games will be held for those teams in which the epidemiological situation remains stable,” is ready to apply various measures depending on the vector of developments. Among the measures already discussed at a number of emergency meetings, there are both the awarding of technical defeats to the affected clubs, and the “suspension of the championship with the subsequent continuation” and “extension of its terms.” The current ones envisage the end of the regular season on March 1, and the Gagarin Cup – at the end of April.
In fact, the latter option may also have an impact on the Olympic tournament, for which a long – month – break was allocated in the KHL calendar.
However, if the outbreaks of coronavirus do not fade away, and match disruptions are constant, the league, so that the season does not stretch out until the summer and does not overlap with the World Cup, which will be held in Finland in May, will probably have to use it for regular season games.
Such a scenario at the beginning of December might have seemed quite normal as a backup. After all, participation in the Beijing NHL Olympics implied a relatively small outflow of hockey players from the KHL clubs to it. Now the situation is completely different. Because of the decision of the NHL to sacrifice the Olympics in order to save its own calendar, the KHL clubs have become the main “donors” of the best national teams. One hundred percent of the hockey players playing for them will form the composition of the Russian team, to a large extent competing teams – Finnish, Swedish, Czech, Canadian and American.