Less than 24 hours after the league announced it would take a one-week break to set a new post-season playoff schedule with the six organizations who were willing to remain competing, the KHL has suspended action until April 10 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The move follows a recommendation put forth by Russia's Ministry of Sport and other local authorities to put a stop to sporting and other large events for the time being. The top junior league, MHL, will also follow the recommendation and the second-tier VHL is expected to follow suit. The Russian Premier Football League and the VTB United Basketball League have suspended operations, as well.
"If, by April 10, the present restrictions are lifted or eased, the KHL will be ready to continue with the playoffs," a league statement said. "In that event, the format and timetable for the revised season will be announced on the league’s official online resources."
Over the past few days, Jokerit Helsinki and Barys Nur-Sultan, the only non-Russian teams remaining in the Gagarin Cup playoffs, pulled out of action and put the second-round of the post-season in disarray. The KHL announced Monday that it would continue with the playoffs using a revised format, with the belief that a tournament-style event could take place in Sochi. Now, that is in question. And even an April 10 date for post-season resumption leaves only a small window for the post-season to be completed. Player contracts in the KHL expire on April 30.
"Health is the main thing to think about. We still don’t even know what might happen," former NHLer Igor Larionov told Russian outlet Championat.
The KHL was the last major professional hockey league to enact a pause. The top hockey league in Belarus, the Extraleague, remains active. The league is in the midst of its semifinal playoff series.
For a full timeline of cancellations and other hockey-related COVID-19 news, click here.
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