With a somewhat surprising decision, the KHL announced yesterday the creation of another minor league, the Hockey Premier League, that will start its operation from the 2016-17 season. The decision is a little bit strange because Russia already has an affiliated minor league in the VHL, which already is mainly made up of independent teams, which have a limit in the number of KHL-contracted players allowed. It looks like KHL teams wanted to have more control on how many players will be demoted and maybe how much they will play.
“The creation of a league for KHL farm teams will help us to consolidate our vertical system,” KHL commissioner Dmitry Chernyshenko told the KHL official site. “It will become an important stage in young players’ development and to create a deeper reserve of players for KHL teams and Team Russia of different ages.”
In the VHL are already skating teams directly controlled by KHL franchises, being Dynamo Balashikha (Dynamo Moscow), SKA-Neva (SKA St. Petersburg), Bars Kazan (Ak Bars Kazan), Toros Neftekamsk (Salavat Yulaev Ufa), and Zvezda Chekhov (CSKA Moscow). It is to be expected that those teams would rather play in the new HPL, rather than in the VHL. Jokerit Helsinki expressed interest towards the new league as well, although it’s not clear yet if they intend to form a new team there. Dinamo Riga seem to be more enthusiastic regarding the new league. “We’ll participate. We’ll have a team in this league,” Dinamo Riga President Juris Savickis told Latvian news agency BNS. “We have HK Liepaja as our from club in the system of Dinamo. I think that we will speak to this team. Currently it is known that 18 teams have applied for participation, they will have to pass certain requirements, but there is a possibility that there could be more teams, even 22.”
Quite on the contrary, Sibir Novosibirsk already announced that they aren’t going to ice a team in the HPL, at least for now. “We aren’t going to get a team in the new [Hockey Premier] League,” Sibir GM Kirill Fastovsky told championat.ru. “It’s not a convenient thing right now. However, when I was asked my opinion on the new league as KHL GM, I gave a positive vote.”
The creation of this new league will have its pros and cons. While the KHL will have a greater freedom on their own players, it is also to be expected the league to be a lower level one, since the VHL showed in the past that can constantly provide the KHL with some good players to strenghten the franchises. With two leagues, and thus presumably more teams involved, the talent will be diluted and the competition may be less fierce, at least in the first couple of seasons. It is also hard to imagine that the new teams will have many people in the stands, as generically in Europe farm clubs are traditionally poor-attended.
In the future many details will be released, stay tuned for more information on the topic.
* Latvian translation and Dinamo Riga heads-up by Latvian journalist Didzis Rudmanis.