Also KHL ends season
by Martin Merk|25 MAR 2020
CSKA Moscow will remain the defending Gagarin Cup champion for another year with the remainder of the KHL season cancelled.
photo: Grigori Sysoyev / RIA Novosti
Today the Russian-based cross-border Kontinental Hockey League has announced to cancel its season as the last big European league to do so.

The KHL has paused the playoffs after the last game of the conference quarter-finals, the Moscow derby Spartak vs. Dynamo in an empty arena on 12 March, with the hope to be able to resume with the eight remaining Gagarin Cup participants in the second half of April.

However, the two remaining foreign teams Jokerit Helsinki and Barys Nur-Sultan pulled out due to the government recommendation and event restrictions in Finland and Kazakhstan. And due to the negative developments of the pandemic in Russia it was decided on 25 March to cancel the remainder of the season 2019/2020.

“Unfortunately we have to finish the season ahead of schedule. This decision was not easy. I’m sure that all fans together with us wanted to see the continuation of the battle for the Gagarin Cup. However, in this situation, the health of players and their loved ones, club employees, employees of competition facilities, and of course the fans is much more important. We believe that no one has the right to take responsibility for the life and health of people,” said KHL President Alexei Morozov.

The league will work on the implications with the aim to start the next season for the teams and fans at the usual time of the year.

The KHL was the last of the big pro leagues in Europe to cancel the season without a champion. Most pro leagues in Europe have cancelled the season earlier this month, the Asia League already in late February. The only professional league still running is the Belarusian Extraliga, where the playoff final is scheduled to start on Friday without restrictions.

In North America the NHL and AHL have suspended the league while minor, college and junior leagues have mostly cancelled the remainder of the season in the meantime.

The IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship events in March, April and May have been cancelled same as other international tournaments such as the Euro Hockey Tour and Challenge Cup of Asia.

The coronavirus pandemic will also affect ice hockey in the southern hemisphere where it would normally soon be the time of the year to start the ice hockey season. The Australian Ice Hockey League has decided to postpone the start of the season scheduled for April while the 2020 season in New Zealand has been cancelled.