from Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times,
Now, as it prepares to open its sixth season Wednesday, the league has regained its confidence and momentum, moving markedly closer to its goal of creating a competitive, international alternative to the National Hockey League. It may not yet be a true rival as the world’s premier place to play the game — in large part because the business of sports in Russia today means none of the teams are profitable. Even so, the league and its teams enjoy the lavish patronage of Russia’s industrial giants and the political support of President Vladimir V. Putin’s Kremlin, which views sport as an instrument of Russia’s domestic and foreign policy.
The league starts the new season with 28 teams, having adding Admiral in Vladivostok and Medvescak in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb. The teams now play in eight nations across a staggering nine time zones, stretching from Central Europe to Asia. In June, a group of billionaires with personal ties to Mr. Putin bought a stake in one of Finland’s top teams, Jokerit, along with its arena in Helsinki, clearing the way for it to join the league next season and creating a furor at home.
“I’m not the most popular man in Finland,” Harry Harkimo, Jokerit’s chairman, said in a telephone interview of his decision to jump to the K.H.L. The league’s level of play, he said, was already competitive with the N.H.L. and would raise Jokerit’s level, he explained.