- © RIA Novosti. Roman Chugunov
© RIA Novosti. Roman Chugunov
MOSCOW, June 17 (R-Sport) – The KHL will halt next season’s schedule a full two weeks before the start of the Sochi 2014 Olympics hockey tournament, league vice-president Vladimir Shalaev said on Monday.
The 52-game season, which opens on September 4 in Moscow, will break on January 30, 2014, and resume on February 26. The first Olympic hockey game is scheduled for February 12.
The sizeable rest starkly contrasts what the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are proposing for its schedule as part of ongoing negotiations with international hockey officials and Olympic organizers over releasing its players for the Games.
NHL officials have said the league would pause on February 9, giving Olympians only three days to fly to Europe.
On Monday, Shalaev attacked the 2013-14 schedule, saying he was “embarrassed” it offers only 52 games due to international hockey commitments. The KHL regularly breaks three weekends each year for the four-team Euro Hockey Tour.
“A league like the KHL has no right giving fans only 52 games in the regular season,” he said. “It’s a mockery; it’s like making Pavarotti sing once a year.”
By comparison, the NHL has scheduled 82 games each season since the mid-1990s.
The KHL’s two-week hiatus means the Russian national team could stage a lengthy training camp with KHLers before stalwarts Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk arrive from North America.
Indeed, Russian hockey federation president Vladimir Tretiak told R-Sport last month it was the league’s duty to organize its regular season schedule based on the interests of the men’s national team.
Russia is still reeling from a quarterfinals defeat at the world hockey championship in Stockholm earlier this month, when they lost 8-3 to the United States. They suffered a humiliating 2-1 preliminary-round loss to France, which is ranked 13 in the world, raising questions about the national program’s potential as Russia gets set to host its first Winter Olympics.
In 2010, the league paused on February 8, five days before the tournament opened at the Vancouver Olympics.