KHL All Stars Played in Sochi Last Sunday

EAST wins against WEST 18:16, such was the result of the KHL All Star Game 2015, which took place in Sochi on Sunday, 25 January 2015.

The event has been a good showpiece for the game in Russia and Eastern Europe in the times when the region’s political and economic ties stand the hardest imaginable tests. Here is how the KHL All Star Game and the surrounding events developed in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi almost a week ago. The article might also have a few insights into the intricate links our game has with politics and economics.

The KHL Board of Directors held its official meeting one day prior to the game. Dmitriy Chernyshenko, the league’s new president, broke some important news. Thus, he showed the direction in which the league would be heading for the next couple of years. Ruslan Karmanov of reports on the following major changes that Mr. Chernyshenko intends to implement in the KHL.

KHL President Chernyshenko
Dmitriy Chernyshenko, newly elected KHL president

Firstly, the league will start the next season on 22 August 2015 and each of the teams will play at least 60 games in the regular season. Secondly, Mr. Chernyshenko assured the public of stable financial condition of the league and approved of the league’s decision not to recalculate the contracts of players due to the Russian ruble’s recent steep depreciation (caused by the economic and political standoff between Russia and the West). Moreover, the KHL intends to lower the salary ceiling for its teams from the current RUB 1.1 billion (US$ 15.9 million at the current exchange rate) down to RUB 1.05 billion (US$ 15 million at the current exchange rate) in the season of 2016-17 and to RUB 950 million (US$ 13.7 million at the current exchange rate) in 2017-2018. Thus, the disparity of contract amounts between the NHL and the KHL players will increase dramatically in the mid-term future. Currently the NHL teams’ budgets are about three times as voluminous as those in the KHL.

What is more, the league is considering changing its highest refereeing body from a council into a single-person one. So far the name of the KHL top referee has not been disclosed to the public, but the line of thought of the league’s management has been made clear.

Chernyshenko repeatedly mentioned during his speech that his league’s efforts will be positively directed towards improving the game and the results of the Russian national team, be it the 2016 World Championships or the 2016 World Cup, where Team Russia also might participate.

The All Star Game followed on Sunday and it took place in Sochi’s Olympic Bolshoy Ice Dome. The game started with the skills competition, which included power shots, penalty shots, shooting accuracy, fastest skater competition, speed relay, puck control relay and 3-on-0 rush challenge. Wojtek Wolski of Torpedo Nizhniy Novgorod won the fastest skater competition with the KHL record of 13.178 seconds for completing the loop.

The league’s shooting accuracy champion and record holder is now Matt Gilroy of Atlant Mytishchi. He managed to shoot four targets with just four shots, which had not been done before in any KHL All Star Game.

Matt Gilroy KHL Alls Stars 2015
Matt Gilroy wins shooting accuracy competition at the KHL 2015 All Star Game

The penalty shots competition was hard to judge as not only the scoring element had to be taken into consideration, but also the skill and the show behind it. Most likely, it was Nikita Gusev of Yugra Hanty-Mansiysk, who managed to show skill, obtain result and entertain.

The most powerful shot was made this year by Patrik Herseley of Sibir Novosibirsk. The speed of the shot made by the Sibir’s defenseman equaled 164 km/h which is roughly 102 m/h. In the 3-on-0 rush challenge it was Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg goaltender Jacub Kovar who won.

The group competitions of speed relay and puck control relay were won interchangeably by Team WEST and Team EAST.

The game itself made the audience that filled the Bolshoy Ice Dome extremely happy. It abounded in goals (24 all in all) and fun. As expected in such opponents-friendly game there were neither fights nor roughing or body-checking.

What could and would make the game complete are higher speeds and more competition. This is possible to achieve even without body checks and other elements of hard play.

The starry evening in Sochi was closed by the seniors’ game, where the legend of the Russian hockey indulged in their memories and enjoyed some power skating. Kameskiy Team lost 3:5 to Kovalenko Team.

Russian Hockey Legends in 2015 KHL All Stars Night
Russian Hockey Legends in 2015 KHL All Stars Night: Gusarov, Fedorov, Kasatonov (all in red jerseys)

The all in all conclusion after the All Stars Game in Sochi is that the KHL is alive and kicking!