KHL may axe five teams

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

MOSCOW — The Kon­ti­nen­tal Hockey League is con­sid­er­ing shrink­ing from 29 to 24 teams fol­low­ing years of fi­nan­cial in­sta­bil­ity.

“Op­ti­miz­ing the num­ber (of clubs) will help us to deal with the is­sue of cost-cut­ting re­lated to player earn­ings,” KHL pres­i­dent Dmitry Ch­ernyshenko said on Tues­day in com­ments re­ported by state news agen­cies in Rus­sia.

Ch­ernyshenko said the league’s anal­y­sis sug­gested 24 teams would be “op­ti­mal.”

He ac­cused some of the league’s less suc­cess­ful clubs of relying on govern­ment money while drag­ging the stan­dard of the league down with poor-qual­ity ice hockey in near-empty are­nas.

The KHL has long de­pended on cash from Rus­sian state com­pa­nies and re­gional gov­ern­ments to keep many of its teams afloat. Some teams have also failed to pay their play­ers on time in re­cent sea­sons.

Croa­t­ian club Med­vescak Za­greb is al­ready due to leave the 29-team, eight­coun­try KHL this summer. It will trans­fer to the Aus­tria-based EBEL af­ter four years in the KHL.

Ch­ernyshenko said the KHL could still ex­pand into Ja­pan, China, South Korea, and West­ern Europe “in one or two sea­sons” de­spite the cuts, in com­ments re­ported by the Tass agency. It wasn’t clear if those planned ex­pan­sions would mean even deeper cuts to the KHL’s ex­ist­ing teams.

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