Sportsnet.ca –- Russia’s Continental Hockey League is ready to ice 24 teams in September, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.
According to the report, the league—billing itself as a potential competitor to the NHL—will initially include the same 20 teams from the Russian Super League plus one from a lower tier and one each from the former Soviet republics of Latvia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
League president Alexander Medvedev is the driving force behind the league and is also the deputy chairman of Russian energy giant OAO Gazprom.
In an interview yesterday with the Globe and Mail from Montreal, where he was elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation council, Medvedev said the league will adopt international rules and intends to hold a draft that could include NHL players.
“We are planning to draft players from around the world, including the NHL,” he told the paper.
The 24 teams will play for the Gagarin Cup, named for cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space. The top two teams will then compete in a Europe-wide championship.
Medvedev added it is time to reconsider relations between Russia and the NHL, which are often at loggerheads over player transfers.
“A unipolar world is not good; we should have a multipolar world,” he said.
Medvedev was recently in Canada to attend the 2008 men’s world hockey championship.
During his stay, he met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly. who said yesterday the two sides will meet again before Medvedev returns to Russia.
NHL enforcer Chris Simon, who finished 2007-08 with the Minnesota Wild, has reportedly signed with struggling Vityaz Chekhov, while there is speculation Jaromir Jagr could join the league as a free agent this summer.