KHL keen to add British ice hockey franchise to global portfolio

By Chris Phillips, PA

Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) president Dmitry Chernyshenko hopes to add a British franchise to his global brand.

The KHL is based is Russia but has recently expanded to add teams in Finland, China, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Latvia and has aspirations to grow the only global ice hockey league yet further, both east and west.

It comes at a time when ice hockey in Britain is enjoying one of its strongest periods, with a thriving Elite League and the national team in the top tier of the World Championships for the second consecutive season.

Hopes also remain high that Great Britain can secure a place at the top table with qualification for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Britain will host a pre-qualification tournament in Nottingham beginning on February 6 and if they get past Hungary, Estonia and Romania they will move onto the final qualification event with the next stop the Winter Olympics for the first time since 1948.

Having a team compete in the KHL – second globally only to the National Hockey League in North America – with British players on the roster would greatly enhance the national team’s bid to play at the highest level.

Chernyshenko told the PA news agency: “There are so many rumours (about expansion) like a club coming from United Arab Emirates or a second club from China or from Japan or Great Britain.

“If we find in Great Britain a real sponsor who will support the club, we will be delighted to have the club. It is the most developed sport market in Europe. In the world outside the USA, the most developed sports market is Great Britain.

“To watch the game you should see some relevant stars and so far we don’t have many British players but Great Britain has great potential because you’re an English speaking country and can attract players from Canada and America who can play at a high level and for reasonable money can play with a great team.

“We had two serious potential partners from Great Britain over the last few years but we have not yet found a real solution but we are optimistic.”

The league is keen to grow the sport with in the community from their franchises and insist that youth and women’s hockey are key elements to promoting a family-friendly atmosphere at games.

At their recent All-Star weekend extravaganza the event saw players lay on a show rather than just a game, with players dressing up as literary icons to read poetry, substituting a conventional shootout for rock, paper, scissors, stone and having former NHL star Alexander Semin enter the shootout in tandem with his four-year-old son.

The skills challenge was overseen by female officials.

Chernyshenko, revealed fan misbehaviour will see the league come down heavily on the clubs, added: “Our business is much more social. The clubs participating in the league when they sign the certification they should run the kids system, the youth club, they should also be responsible for the women’s club so it’s not like the pure business like America.

“It’s much more social because the break even for the clubs is highly reachable. We are trying to minimise the expenditure to maximise the effect of running the hockey business as a social engagement.”