MINSK – Ukrainian champion Sokil Kyiv was added to the Belarus Extraliga, which consists now of a record-high 15 teams.
One reason the number of teams has been constantly rising is the new arenas built in Belarus. While there are only two arenas from the Soviet time and 11 arenas built until 2003, the country is scheduled to have 20 arenas by the end of this year and 48 arenas by 2014.
The newest addition is Shakhter Soligorsk. The other teams from Belarus are: Yunost Minsk, HK Gomel, Metallurg Zhlobin, Khimvolokno Mogilyov, HK Vitebsk, Keramin Minsk, Neman Grodno, Khimik-SKA Novopolotsk, HK Brest, Shinnik Bobruisk.
Three Latvian teams and a Ukrainian team will complete the 15-team league. From the four Latvian teams which joined the league last year and competed in the bottom part of the standings, only Riga 2000 and Liepajas Metalurgs remain. The third team will be a farm team of KHL club Dinamo Riga, which has yet to be named.
Ukrainian champion Sokil Kyiv returns to the Belarusian league after a two-year break. Sokil was a top team in the second-tier Russian league. The participation fee and the high travel cost might have been essential in the decision to leave the Russian league and to play in their closer environment against Belarusian and Latvian teams.
The teams will play a 56-game regular season which starts on September 3 followed by the quarterfinals which are open for teams from all countries. The playoffs will be officiated with the four-man system. Clubs are allowed to sign five import players.