2019-20 Schedules Released for the MHL and VHL
There is more and more detailed info about the 2019-20 hockey season in Russia coming our way all the time now, but today was particularly news-ful. We now have the 2019-20 schedule for the junior-age MHL and the revised calendar for the second-tier professional VHL. Read on, for some details on what each league will look like this coming season!
It has been a relatively quiet summer in the MHL, Russia’s top men’s junior league. The MHL announced its 2019-20 schedule and team list today, and there are very few changes to the latter — one team re-named, two moving, and one new club (sort of). The re-named team is the former Atlanty Moscow Oblast, who will henceforth be SMO MHK Atlant Moscow Oblast. This brings the junior men’s team into line with the other teams at the club, and Atlant of course was the name of the club when it played in the KHL (the KHL team folded in 20160. The newly-renamed junior team will continue to play out of the city Mytishchi, in Moscow Oblast.
Switching locations for 2019-20 is Kunlun Red Star Beijing’s junior team, which played as KRS Heilongjiang in Harbin, China, last season. The MHL team is being re-named ORG Junior Beijing, but will play 6500 km. northwest of the Chinese capital in Riga, Latvia. That may sound a bit strange at first, but it is actually not unprecedented at all; Kunlun Red Star’s junior team played its inaugural season, 2017-18, in Riga before moving to Harbin for the most recent campaign. ORG Junior will play at the 1300-seat Volvo Sports Centre in the Latvian capital. The other team moving is MHK Dynamo Moscow (junior club, unsurprisingly, of the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow); they will keep the “Moscow” part of their name, but are trundling a couple of hundred kilometres up the E105 to the city of Tver.
And the Sakhalin Sharks are back! Sakhalinskie Akuly, from the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on the far far-eastern island of Sakhalin, played in the MHL as the junior team of Admiral Vladivostok from 2014-16, although they missed the playoffs in both those seasons. Now they return as an independent club (Admiral’s junior squad is and will remain Taifun Primorsky Krai), and will play in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk’s 1000-seat Arena City Ice Complex. These are nice days for hockey on the island; earlier this year, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk’s professional team, PSK Sakhalin, won the Asia League title for the first time ever.
And so the MHL will be a 34-team league in 2019-20, allowing for even distribution between the East and West Conferences (Chaika Nizhny Novgorod move from West to East to balance the numbers). The Conference break-down is as follows:
|West Conference||East Conference|
|Almaz Cherepovets||Avto Yekaterinburg|
|Amurskie Tigry Khabarovsk||Altai Ust-Kamenogorsk|
|SMO MHK Atlant Moscow Oblast||Belye Medvedi Chelyabinsk|
|MHK Dynamo Moscow||Chaika Nizhny Novgorod|
|MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg||Irbis Kazan|
|Kapitan Stupino||Kuznetskie Medvedi Novokuznetsk|
|Krasnaya Armiya Moscow||Ladya Togliatti|
|Krylya Sovetov Moscow||Mamonty Yugry Khanty-Mansiysk|
|Loko Yaroslavl||Omskie Yastreby Omsk|
|ORG Junior Beijing||Reaktor Nizhnekamsk|
|HK Riga||Sarmaty Orenburg|
|Russkie Vityazi Chekhov||Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk|
|Sakhalinskie Akuly Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk||Snezhnye Barsy Nur-Sultan|
|SKA-1946 St. Petersburg||Sputnik Almetyevsk|
|SKA-Varyagi Leningrad Oblast||Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk|
|MHK Spartak Moscow||Tolpar Ufa|
|Taifun Primorsky Krai||Tyumensky Legion Tyumen|
Note that as usual, the far-eastern teams are in the West Conference; that’s for reasons of easy availability of flights to and from.
As for the schedule itself, it will follow a fairly easy format, as each team faces each other team in its conference four times — twice at home and twice away — for a total of 64 games per club. There is no inter-conference play during the MHL regular season. To further cut down on travel, the two road games against each opponent will be played back-to-back (this means of course that the two home games against each opponent will also be played back-to-back). Top eight in each conference make the playoffs.
The 2019-20 MHL regular season opens on September 3rd, when defending Kharlamov Cup champions Loko Yaroslavl host Almaz Cherepovets. The season wraps up on March 6th, with the playoffs slated to start on March 10th. New team Sakhalinskie Akuly will play their first game on the road, against Dynamo St. Petersburg on September 5th, and will open at home on September 14th against Kapitan Stupino.
And we have a new and revised schedule for the Silk Road Cup, the regular-season championship of the VHL (Russia’s second-level men’s professional league)! This has been an unusual summer in the VHL, which issued a schedule and a list of 2019-20 participants in early July, only to add two MORE teams just a couple of weeks later. Now, at last, we have what should be the final draft of the schedule (link is a PDF, in Russian), but there is one more change to let you know about. The two teams added after the first draft of the schedule came out were HK Rostov and a Chinese team that was originally named as Shougang Beijing. However, that name has changed, and Shougang Beijing will be officially known as KRS-Beijing. Yes, that will likely cause some confusion with the team’s parent-club, Kunlun Red Star Beijing of the KHL; that hyphen or lack thereof will be important (KRS-ORG Beijing, Kunlun Red Star’s former farm-club, is now an independent VHL team known simply as ORG Beijing).
The season format has actually not changed drastically from what I described in this post here. Both HK Rostov and KRS-Beijing will slot into the West Conference, with the Chinese side in Division A and Rostov in Division B. That means that the West will have 18 teams and the East 16; we’ll see if there is a realignment after this coming season. In the meantime, each team will play each other team in its own conference twice, and each team in the other conference EITHER once at home OR once away. The remainder of the 54-game regular season will be made up with games against teams in the club’s own division. After the Silk Road Cup wraps up on the 18th of February, the top eight in each conference will make the Petrov Cup playoffs, with the division-winners seeded first and second in each conference as is standard.
However, the VHL is keeping its interesting playoff wrinkle. The first round will follow the usual first vs. eighth, etc. format in each conference. Thereafter, however, intra-conference play will be abandoned, and the eight teams advancing to the second round will be ranked as one group, a format that will continue until the Petrov Cup finalists are determined.
The new schedule does change the openers and home openers for the new teams in the league, which I had laid out in a previous post. So let’s revisit those for a moment, in updated form:
- Dynamo Tver (newly created/resurrected “in-house” farm team of KHL club Dynamo Moscow): open on the road against HK Rostov on September 8th (home opener Sept. 15 vs. Saryarka Karaganda).
- Humo Tashkent (expansion team): open at home on Sept. 11 against HK Ryazan.
- KRS-Beijing (newly-created farm-team of Kunlun Red Star Beijing): open on the road Sept. 8 against Dizel Penza (home opener Sept. 16 vs. ORG Beijing — the first-ever Beijing Derby in the history of the league).
- Nomad Nur-Sultan (former Kazakh League farm team of KHL club Barys Nur-Sultan): open at home September 7th against Rubin Tyumen.
- HK Rostov (joining the VHL from the third-tier PVHL): Open at home on Sept. 6 vs. Dynamo Tver.
- Torpedo-Gorky Nizhny Novgorod (replacing HK Sarov, the VHL’s only non-returning team, as farm team of KHL club Torpedo Nizhny Novogord): open at home on Sept. 7 against Bars Kazan.
The 2019-20 Silk Road Cup will begin on September 5th, when defending Petrov Cup champions Saryarka Karaganda host Rubin Tyumen.
Thank you for reading! Tomorrow: a Traktor Chelyabinsk preview.