KHL Arenas in 2019-20: A Field Guide (Updated July 11th)
One of the big stories of the KHL’s 2019 off-season has involved the size of the ice surface on which the players ply their trade. Russian and European hockey, since its beginning, has generally been played on the old “international” size of ice surface, 60 metres by 30. And not coincidentally, that has been the ice-size in use for the World Championships and Olympics as well. However, recent years have seen a push towards the smaller rink sizes, namely the so-called Finnish rink (60 metres by 28) and/or the ice-surface in use in the NHL and other North American leagues (60 metres by 26). Proponents of the smaller ice argue that it increases the speed of the game, and leads to more action around the nets, while those who prefer the traditional European ice-surfaces point to the larger variety of tactics available on those rinks, and the more cerebral and skillful nature of the game. Read on, for a bit more on how this issue is affecting the KHL, and for an arena-by-arena look at the league’s primary buildings for 2019-20!
The past few seasons have seen a handful of KHL teams adopt smaller ice-surfaces than the old international standard, but the issue took on new urgency just last month, when the International Ice Hockey Federation decreed that beginning next year, the World Championships will henceforth be played on the smaller NHL size of rink. That decision has set off a flurry of changes to KHL rinks, with a number of teams deciding to reduce their ice sizes this summer. It’s not a universally popular move; changing the rink size can mess up the sight-lines for seats close to the ice, as well as creating headaches for General Managers who have designed their squads around the bigger ice-surface. However, the trend right now is definitely towards smaller rinks in the KHL.
With that in mind, here follows a little stroll through the 23 arenas that will be in primary use in the KHL this coming season (there are 24 KHL teams this season, but two of them are sharing one arena), with a special eye on the issue of rink-size. For each arena I’ve listed the capacity from the KHL’s own website, the year the rink opened, and its current ice-size, and I am much obliged to Tomáš Vorčák (@vorkywh24 on Twitter), who has been been following the rink-size issue closely this off-season. And I’ve tossed in an extra tidbit or two about each arena as well. Enjoy, and as an arena-related reminder, you can check out a post on KHL attendance in 2018-19 right here!
Admiral Vladivostok — Fetisov Arena (Capacity 5915, Opened 2013, NHL rink). Named after Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman Vyacheslav Fetisov, who, as Primorsky Krai’s representative on the Russian Federation Council, was instrumental in the hockey club’s founding earlier this decade. The arena was built with the NHL-size rink in place, although the training rink in the same complex is of international dimensions. And of course, my favourite thing about the Fetisov Arena is that it has a statue of beloved team cat Matroska, who passed away a couple of years ago!
Ak Bars Kazan — Tatneft Arena (Capacity 8890, Opened 2005, Finnish rink). Ak Bars switched from the international to the Finnish rink-size a year ago. The arena is named after the oil company and general sponsor of the team Tatneft, and it hosted the 2018-19 KHL All-Star game.
Amur Khabarovsk — Platinum Arena (Capacity 7100, Opened 2003, NHL rink). Amur reduced the size of their ice-surface to the NHL standard prior to the 2017-18 season. That arena name is, as far as I know, a nod to the significant amount of platinum-mining that goes on in Khabarvosk Krai.
Avangard Omsk Oblast — Yuri Lyapkin Arena Balashikha (Capacity 6000, Opened 2007, International rink). Avangard were forced to move to Balashikha, 2700 km. from Omsk, a year ago when serious structural problems were discovered at their usual home, the Arena Omsk (Capacity 10,318, Opened 2007). The Arena Omsk is slated for demolition and replacement with a 12,000-seat structure that will open in 2022-23. As for Avangard’s temporary home, it is named after Balashikha native Yuri Lyapkin, a defenceman for Spartak Moscow and the Soviet national team and a 1976 gold-medalist. For the moment, it has the old large-size ice-surface, but Avangard are reported to be considering a change before this upcoming season.
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg — KRK Uralets (Capacity 5545, Opened 1970, Finnish rink). The Uralets Cultural and Recreational Complex (“Uralets” simply refers to a person of the Ural Mountain region) is the KHL’s third-oldest rink, and one of its smallest in terms of audience capacity. Avtomobilist do have a new, 12,000-seat, arena on the way; it is currently early in its construction phase, and is scheduled to open in about January of 2022. Avtomobilist, who had been playing on the international ice surface, will switch to the Finnish size of rink at the Uralets for 2019-20.
Barys Nur-Sultan — Barys Arena (Capacity 11626, Opened 2015, NHL rink). Barys re-sized their ice surface just last month, going from the IIHF size (on which the arena hosted this past winter’s Division 1A Men’s Worlds) to the NHL-sized rink. Somewhat surprisingly, it is not the largest rink in Kazakhstan; the Almaty Arena, in the city of the same name, seats 12,000. And in September, near the start of the 2019-20 season, Barys will travel to Almaty to play two home regular-season games at the Almaty Arena.
CSKA Moscow — CSKA Arena (Capacity 12100, Opened 2015, Finnish rink). The CSKA Arena located at Legends Park (formerly the VTB Ice Palace) is the KHL’s only shared rink; both CSKA and Spartak play their home games there. CSKA moved last summer from their old CSKA Ice Palace, and last month they announced a change in ice-surface from the international size to the slightly smaller Finnish variant. The CSKA Arena is currently the KHL’s third-largest venue by capacity.
Dinamo Minsk — MKSK Minsk-Arena (Capacity 15086, Opened 2010, Finnish rink). Dinamo’s home is the KHL’s largest rink by capacity, and the fourth-largest in Europe at the moment. The club just announced today the change in ice-surface size from IIHF to Finnish, and interestingly, club General Director Dmitry Baskov noted that the arena “does not provide” for a change to the NHL size. That is significant, because the Minsk-Arena is slated to co-host the 2021 IIHF Men’s Worlds. “MKSK,” incidentally, stands for “Multidisciplinary Cultural and Sports Complex.”
Dinamo Riga — Arena Riga (Capacity 10300, Opened 2006, International rink). Somewhat unusually, Dinamo have stated straight-out that they will stay with the old rink size as long as they can. Riga will, with Minsk, co-host the 2021 IIHF Men’s Worlds, which will require a smaller ice surface if the IIHF’s recent decision remains in force; we will see if the Dinamo club makes a permanent change at that point.
Dynamo Moscow — VTB Arena (Capacity 10345, Opened 2019, NHL rink). Dynamo just moved into their new rink, near Moscow’s Petrovsky Park, at the beginning of January, 2019. The structure, which includes both the Dynamo hockey team’s rink and the stadium for the club’s soccer team, will host the 2019-20 KHL All-Star festivities. It is is named for the VTB Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions.
Jokerit Helsinki — Hartwall Arena (Capacity 13349, Opened 1997, International rink). Some mild irony in the fact that the KHL’s lone Finnish team does not play on the “Finnish” size of rink! The Hartwall, also known as the Helsingforsarenan (“Helsinki Arena”), is the KHL’s second-largest venue by capacity, and takes its name from the Hartwall beverage company.
In January, Jokerit will also play two home regular-season games at the 5840-seat Tondiraba Jäähall in Tallinn, Estonia.
Kunlun Red Star Beijing — Shougang Arena (Capacity 3000, Opened 2019, International rink). I admit to some uncertainty about the date, here; I think the Shougang opened earlier this year, but it may have been late 2018. In any case, it is very new, built in a re-purposed coal plant, and it is also by some distance the league’s smallest venue. Kunlun Red Star actually moved there from their temporary home in Shanghai at the end of 2018-19, playing their last two home games at the Shougang despite the rink being below the league’s minimum capacity of 5500 (an exemption was given in this case due to the need to promote hockey in Beijing in advance of the 2022 Winter Olympics). I believe that it is the plan for KRS at some point to move full-time to Beijing’s 18000-seat Wukesong Arena, where the club actually began in the KHL, but as far as I know there is no firm date for that move.
The KHL this morning (July 10th) revealed the 2019-20 home openers for each team ahead of tomorrow’s full schedule unveiling, with those dates cames the info that Kunlun Red Star will open their season not at the Shougang Arena in Beijing, but at the Shenzhen Dayun Arena, in China’s south-east very close to Hong Kong. The Shenzhen Dayun Arena seats 18,000 people, and as built for the 2011 Summer Universiade. It was/is the home of the Kunlun Red Star women’s teams that played in the CWHL over the last couple of seasons, and hosted an NHL pre-season game last September. Kunlun Red Star will reportedly play six games there in this coming season’s first month — we’ll see what happens thereafter, vis-a-vis Beijing and the Shougang Arena.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl — UKRK Arena-2000-Yaroslavl (Capacity 9000, Opened 2001, International rink). The Arena-2000-Yaroslavl Universal Cultural and Recreational Complex remains at the old IIHF size, and in 2018 club President Yuri Yakovlev mentioned sight-lines for the front rows of seats as a reason not to change to a smaller rink. The front of the arena includes a memorial to the victims of the 2011 plane crash that claimed the lives of the team’s players and coaching staff.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk — UKRK Arena Metallurg (Capacity 7704, Opened 2007, Finnish rink). The Arena Metallurg, on the left bank of the Ural River, is one of the ones switching rink-size this summer. At 7704 seats, Metallurg’s arena is the median for capacity in the KHL.
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk — LD Neftekhim Arena (Capacity 5500, Opened 2005, Finnish rink). The Neftekhim Ice Palace (the name means “Petrochem,” roughly) changed to the Finnish size in the summer of 2018. Along with Torpedo’s arena, it is smallest KHL rink in Russia; its 5500 capacity is the smallest allowable for cities of over 100,000 people.
Salavat Yulaev Ufa — USA Ufa-Arena (Capacity 8070, Opened 2007, International rink). It appears that Salavat Yulaev will change their rink size next summer, and will consult with fans about whether they prefer the Finnish or NHL rink before doing so. “USA” here, incidentally, stands for “Universal Sports Arena.” While the decision has not yet been announced officially, it is likely that Ufa, and the Ufa-Arena, will host the 2021 IIHF Women’s Worlds.
The Vaillant Arena (capacity 7080) in Davos, Switzerland, will also be Salavat Yulaev’s home for one game in the 2019-20 KHL regular season, against Ak Bars Kazan on December 23rd.
Severstal Cherepovets — MAU Ice Palace (Capacity 5583, Opened 2006, Finnish rink). The Ice Palace in Cherepovets switched to the Finnish size of ice-surface this off-season. “MAU” stands for Municipal Autonomous Institution.
Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast — LDS Sibir (Capacity 7420, Opened 1964, Finnish rink). The Sibir Ice Sports Palace got an overhaul this spring, switching to the Finnish size of ice-surface; interestingly, the arena’s old boards were donated to the rink in the neighbouring city of Berdsk. Sibir’s arena is the KHL’s oldest, and a new rink, also with the Finnish ice-surface, is planned to be open by 2022-23, when Novosibirsk will host the World Juniors (possibly along with Omsk).
SKA St. Petersburg — MSRK Ice Palace (Capacity 12000, Opened 2000, NHL rink). SKA just announced the other day that KHL powerhouse will be switching to the NHL size of ice-surface for the coming season. And while the Multifunctional Sports and Recreation Complex is not that old, it is slated for replacement; a new, 20,000-seat rink will be built (it will be the largest rink in the world), and is planned to be open in time to host the 2023 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
HK Sochi — DS Bolshoi (Capacity 12000, Opened 2013, NHL rink). The Bolshoi Sports Palace (“Bolshoi,” literally, means “Big”) was built for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and has hosted HK Sochi since the club’s creation in the same year. As with a number of other teams, Sochi changed their ice-surface this summer.
Spartak Moscow — CSKA Arena (Capacity 12100, Opened 2015, Finnish rink). Spartak currently share the CSKA Arena with CSKA (see above), and have played there for a couple of seasons now. Spartak’s previous home, in Sokolniki Park, was the USSR’s second artificial-ice arena, built in 1956; it is currently being reconstructed completely, and the new building may be open as early as 2020-21.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod — KRK Nagorny (Capacity 5500, Opened 1965, International rink). The KHL’s second-oldest arena is the Nagorny Cultural and Recreational Complex, also known as the Trade Union Sports Palace (“Nagorny” means, roughly, “on the mountain,” and refers to the arena’s location on a promontory overlooked the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers). The Nagorny is the KHL’s second-oldest rink, and as with the other Soviet-era arenas in the KHL, plans for replacement of it are underway; the new building will hopefully open in 2022 (and with a Finnish ice-surface).
Traktor Chelyabinsk — Valery Belousov LA Traktor (Capacity 7500, Opened 2009, International rink). Traktor, for the time being, remain with old, large, size of ice-surface, although new Head Coach Pēteris Skudra has spoken positively of the trend towards smaller rinks. Originally just the Traktor Ice Arena, the building now also bears the name of the late Valery Belousov, a famous ex-player and -coach at the club.
Vityaz Moscow Oblast — LD Vityaz (Capacity 5500, Opened 2000, Finnish rink). Vityaz actually played at their eponymous Ice Palace, in the Moscow Region city of Podolsk, from 2000 to 2004, before moving to neighbouring Chekhov and playing there for about a decade. They have since moved back to Podolsk and the Vityaz rink, and switched to the Finnish ice-format last summer.
Some overall facts and figures on KHL arenas in 2019-20:
To go back to our original discussion of rink sizes, the summer of 2019 shows an almost-even distribution of the three different formats in the league. Eight teams are currently on the old international size of rink, while ten are on the Finnish ice-surface. Six teams, so far, have switched to the NHL-sized rinks. Note that all that is “as of right now”; Avangard and Avtomobilist, both currently on the international size of rink, may change before 2019-20 begins.
As far as capacity is concerned, I mentioned above that the Arena Metallurg in Magnitogorsk, at 7704 spectators, represents the median capacity in the league (the average is 8480). The league’s smallest rink is the brand-new Shougang Arena (3000 spectators), in Beijing, where Kunlun Red Star will play this coming season. And the largest, as has been the case since 2010, is Dinamo Minsk’s Minsk-Arena (15086 spectators), until and unless Kunlun Red Star make their move to the Shenzhen Dayun Arena permanent.
Finally, in terms of age of these buildings: the median year of opening for a KHL arena is 2006, and all but four of the arenas opened no earlier than the year 2000. The oldest building is the 55-year-old LDS Sibir in Novosibirsk, while the Shougang Arena and Dynamo Moscow’s VTB Arena both began operations just within the last few months.
Thank you for reading! Note that this post will very likely be updated as the season goes along, if there are further changes in ice size or I think of interesting tidbits to add to it (feel free to supply those yourself, too, via the comments). There is also a women’s hockey update to come this week, and we are now exactly seven days away from the start of the 2019-20 team-by-team previews!