Sochi-based ice hockey team to be added to KHL in latest Olympic legacy boost

Thursday, 01 May 2014
By Nick Butler

A team based in Sochi will be added to the Kontinental Hockey League from next season ©KHLA team based in Sochi will be added to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for next season in a major sporting legacy boost for the city following the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

The news, which will mark the first time a KHL side has come from the Krasnodar region, follows the announcement that the nearby Fisht Olympic Stadium will become the home stadium of reformed football club FC Zhemchuzhina at some point in the future.

But with the date of their arrival yet to be confirmed the ice hockey club, to be named as the Sochi Leopards subject to official confirmation, are likely to become the first sports team to be based in an arena used during the Games.

They will play home matches at either the Bolshoy Ice Dome or Shayba Arena, the two ice hockey venues located in the Olympic Park.

Widely regarded the second strongest league in the world after the National Hockey League, the KHL was set up in 2008 and currently consists of 28 teams across Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

But with plans also revealed to add two further sides in addition to the Sochi-based team this number will rise to 31, of which 23 will be from Russia in addition to one each from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Finland. 

The team will be based in Sochi at either the Bolshoy Ice Dome or the Shayba Arena in the Olympic Park ©Getty ImagesThe team will be based in Sochi at either the Bolshoy Ice Dome or the Shayba Arena in the Olympic Park ©Getty Images

The news is a boost for the ice hockey fraternity in Sochi as the southern city is far from the traditional fan base of the sport in central and eastern cities, and the nearest current KHL team is Donbass Donetsk almost 500 miles away in Ukraine.

More generally, the confirmation of the team comes at an important time a week after Vladimir Katrenko, a director of Russia's state auditing agency, told Parliament the country's Sports Ministry "should take urgent measures" to improve inadequate Olympic legacy plans.

Since the conclusion of the Paralympic Games in March another Olympic Park venue, the Adler Arena which hosted speed skating during the Olympics, hosted Russia's Federation Cup tennis match against Argentina, in which the host nation won 4-0.

Other legacy plans have included the beginning of design work on an Extreme Hotel to be located in Krasnaya Polyana close to multiple mountain venues, as well as the opening of a theme park dubbed "Russia's Disneyland" bordering the Olympic Park. 

But there have also been failures including the scrapping of plans to turn the Iceberg Skating Palace, which hosted figure skating during the Games, into a track cycling velodrome. 

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March 2014: U-turn on plans to turn Sochi 2014 skating venue into velodrome leaves cycling legacy in doubt
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