Some News Notes: Schedules & the Like
Time to take a quick break from the previews in order to get a little bit of news out of the way. Schedules and full team lineups are now out for several different Russian leagues, and we have KHL pre-season hockey to talk about as well. Unfortunately, not all of the pre-season goings-on have been of the good variety… read on!
The KHL’s pre-season tournaments are well underway at this point, but things have taken a bit of an ugly turn in the last few days. First, the Governor’s Cup of Nizhegorod Oblast was witness to a rink-side fight between Pēteris Skudra, coach of hosts Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, and his Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk counterpart Yevgeny Popikhin on Saturday. That incident, however, paled in comparison to the ugliness that ensued today between Barys Astana and Kunlun Red Star Beijing.
The bad blood between the KHL’s Kazakh and Chinese sides began on Friday, when the two met in a “one-off” exhibition game. Kunlun Red Star came out on top by 3-1 (the franchise’s first ever victory), but late in the game Barys forward Dustin Boyd suffered a broken ankle during some rough play and will now miss two to four months of action. The ensuing line brawl was little surprise; Boyd is a key member of the top line not only for Barys but also for the Kazakh national squad, which has Olympic qualifying games in its near future (Boyd, born in Winnipeg, is a naturalized Kazakh citizen), and his loss is a devastating one for both teams.
The two squads met again today, in Astana, in the opening game of the President’s Cup of Kazakhstan, but they didn’t get far. With the game only three minutes old, Barys forward Damir Ryspayev completely lost his mind. First, he delivered a brutal sucker-punch to unsuspecting Kunlun Red Star forward Tomáš Marcinko; the Slovak player would leave the ice on a stretcher, and we still await confirmation of how he’s doing (“suspected concussion” is the report right now). Then, while Marcinko was receiving treatment, Ryspayev roamed about the ice pummeling various opponents before finally attacking the Chinese team’s bench. Order was eventually restored, but Kunlun Red Star coach Vladimir Yurzinov, Jr., had seen enough, and pulled his team out of the game (the result officially stands as a 5-0 forfeit victory for Barys). It was the kind of display that harkened back to the bad old days of the goon squad at Vityaz Chekhov.
The KHL, to its credit, was not slow to act, immediately suspending Ryspayev for the remainder of the pre-season and describing his behaviour as “contrary not only to the rules, but also to the spirit of our game.” A full disciplinary hearing is to take place soon to mete out further punishment, and the committee will doubtless take note of Ryspayev’s career KHL line of 23 gp, 0-0-0, 194 PiM. I suspect that it will be quite awhile before we see the 21-year-old from Ust-Kamenogorsk in a Barys sweater again, and the police may take an interest in the incident as well. Whether others, such as Barys’ notorious coach Andrei Nazarov, will face discipline remains unknown for now, nor is there word on whether Kunlun Red Star will be punished for abandoning the game.
Video of the whole mess is here, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Enough of that. Nasty incidents aside, the KHL pre-season tournaments have produced some entertaining hockey, with host teams doing particularly well this summer. Here’s a quick rundown of those tournaments that have been completed:
- Torpedo won the Governor’s Cup of Nizhegorod Oblast, after a last-day 1-0 victory over Severstal Cherepovets allowed them to slip past a stern challenge from Dinamo Riga. Neftekhimik, Ak Bars Kazan, and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl were the other teams taking part.
- In Chelyabinsk, hosts Traktor won their Governor’s Cup, defeating Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4-2 in the Final. Metallurg Magnitogorsk took third via a 4-0 drubbing of Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk.
- In the Russian capital, the Arkady Chernyshyov Memorial Tournament went to the famous coach’s old team, Dynamo Moscow. Dinamo Minsk, Spartak Moscow, and VHL side Dynamo Balashikha made up the rest of the field in that one.
- One home team that did not fare so well was HK Sochi, who were hosting the Sochi Hockey Open on the Black Sea coast. CSKA Moscow took top honours in that one, with SKA St. Petersburg and the Russian Olympic Team the other participants.
- And there was disappointment for both KHL participants — Avangard Omsk and Salavat Yulaev Ufa — at the Mountfield Cup in the Czech Republic. Hosts Mountfield HK of the Czech Extraliga won out in the end, ahead of the two KHL sides and Czech team Dynamo Pardubice.
You can keep up to date with the schedule and results from the pre-season tournaments right here.
The KHL regular season is but two weeks away, with the other big Russian leagues to start shortly thereafter. The KHL will open on the 22nd of August, with a rematch of last year’s Finals between Metallurg Magnitogorsk and CSKA Moscow. Each team will play 60 games, with the regular season scheduled to end on February 18th, 2017.
The schedule has the usual series of breaks for international play built in, with the first of those happening at the beginning of November. In addition, several teams — Dinamo Minsk, Jokerit Helsinki, Dinamo Riga, and Barys Astana — will get seven to ten days off in late August and early September to allow players to take part in the final round of Olympic qualification tournaments (Dinamo Minsk, in fact, do not begin the season at all until September 6th). Why Jokerit, given that Finland have not only qualified for the Olympic hockey tournament but will be one of the favourites? The Helsinki team gets a break as a nice gesture to the Danish national team, which has a couple of key players in Jokerit sweaters this season.
As for newcomers Kunlun Red Star, they too get a bit of extra time to prepare for their inaugural season. The Chinese team does not begin play until September 1st, when they will face Amur Khabarovsk on the road. The first KHL regular season game in Beijing will take place on September 5th, with Admiral Vladivostok the visiting opposition.
The full KHL schedule (in English) is here.
The Women’s Hockey League also released its schedule recently, and with it came the welcome confirmation that new team Dynamo Kursk has been officially accepted, and will take part in the 2016-17 campaign. That wasn’t the only good news; the league, in its second season under the aegis of the KHL, has expanded the number of games from 24 per team to 42 (each club will play each other club six times).
The new season will begin with a full slate of games on September 3rd, with the marquee matchup on that day featuring last season’s top two teams as Agidel Ufa visit Dmitrov to take on defending champions Tornado Moscow Oblast. Dynamo Kursk will begin their competitive existence with a trip to central Siberia to face Biryusa Krasnoyarsk. The Kursk fans will have to wait until October 1st to cheer on their team at home; Dynamo’s first visiting opponents will be mighty Tornado.
The full Women’s Hockey League schedule is here (link is a PDF, in Russian). We will have a more detailed preview of the new season when it gets a bit closer.
Russia’s second-tier men’s pro league, the VHL, had a summer of some uncertainty, as control of the league passed from the KHL to the Russian Hockey Federation. This move was accompanied by the creation of a dedicated KHL farm league, which had the potential to pull fans and teams away from the VHL. In the end however, it proved a non-issue; the VHL and the farm league were combined, at least for this season, and on the surface not much has changed at all between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The VHL lost one club, Zvezda-VDV Dmitrov, at the halfway point of last season, but got the number of teams back up to 26 this summer. The new club will be Dynamo St. Petersburg, who after running teams in the junior MHL and the Women’s Hockey League for several seasons are looking to join the men’s professional ranks (their other two teams will continue to play in their respective leagues).
The 2016-17 VHL season will begin on the 8th of September, when last year’s Bratina Cup champions, Neftyanik Almetyevsk, face 2015-16 regular season champions THK Tver. Everybody plays everybody else twice, making for a 50 game season, same as last time.
You can see the full VHL schedule here (link is a PDF, in Russian).
September 4th, meanwhile, will see the opening of the 2016-17 season in the junior-age MHL. As in 2015-16, 31 teams will take part, but there have been a number of departures and new arrivals. Gone, at least for now, is the Russian Under-18 national team, as that project is reviewed in the wake of the doping issue that hit the squad right before this spring’s U18 World Championship. Also out are independent junior team Olimpiya Kirovo-Chepetsk and Dinamo-Raubichi Minsk (junior team of the KHL’s Dinamo Minsk). The latter of those two endured a horrific 2015-16 season, during which they managed only two points in 42 games, both coming from overtime losses. Finally, KHL side Admiral Vladivostok decided to move their junior team off the island of Sakhalin and a little closer to home, meaning that HC Sakhalinskie Akuly, of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, are no more.
The new Admiral junior team will play in Ussuriysk, not far from Vladivostok, and be called “Taifun” (“Typhoon”). Other new arrivals in the MHL include two affiliated with VHL teams: Sputnik Almetyevsk (junior team of VHL champions Neftyanik) and Kazakh team Altai Ust-Kamenogorsk (affiliated with Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk). And a famous name has been resurrected in Moscow; the Krylya Sovetov club (often referred to in English as “Soviet Wings”) were twice champions of the USSR’s top hockey league, and contributed numerous players to the country’s powerful national team. The team played professionally in the Russian Superleague in the 1990s and 2000s, but did not join the newly-created KHL in 2008, and subsequently went into a decline. In recent years, the club’s hockey school has been the only part of it still operating. Krylya Sovetov’s return to full-time national competition, even if only at the junior level, is a welcome one, and there have been persistent rumours that the club would like to be back in the KHL by the end of the decade.
MHL teams will play either 56 or 60 games each, depending on which conference they are in, and that is an increase of 14-16 over last season. The full schedule can be seen right here!
The last bit of schedule news for this post: The Asia League Hockey calendar is now available. The nine-team league features teams in China, Japan, and South Korea as well as Russian side HK Sakhalin, from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Sakhalin came painfully close to winning it all last season, before dropping the Final to South Korean side Anyang Halla. Asia League play will begin on August 27th, and the Russian team will play its first game on September 3rd against new South Korean team Daemyung Killer Whales, from Incheon.
The full Asia League schedule is here (PDF).
An international hockey note: the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, featuring the Under-18 boys’ teams from eight different countries, got started on Monday in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Team Russia dropped its opener, 3-1 to Sweden, with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl prospect Nikita Anokhovsky scoring the only Russian goal. Next up will be Team Canada on Tuesday.
Finally, an interesting little story about what players are getting up to off the ice: if you have ever wondered what having a hockey stick exactly like Sergei Mozyakin’s would do for your game, you now have the opportunity to find out. Metallurg Magnitogorsk forward Danis Zaripov, a redoubtable player himself, is starting his own stick company this summer in Naberzhnye Chelny, Tatarstan (the company’s name “Zaryad,” is a play on Zaripov’s own name and “zarya,” the Russian word for “dawn”). On offer are sticks modeled after Zaripov’s own and those used by his line-mate Mozyakin, as well as some based on the sticks of Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexei Morozov. Sticks will be made both adults and youth players, and for both men and women. Zaryad opens officially on the 18th of August, but you can already explore their website, their Instagram account, and their Vkontakte page. Many thanks to Alexander Agapov for passing along this news via Facebook, and best of luck to Mr. Zaripov in his entrepreneurial endeavours!
That will do for now — tomorrow will see us back to the KHL previews, with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg next up in the queue. Thank you for reading!