After two of the final eight playoff teams withdrew from the second round of the KHL playoffs last week due to COVID-19 virus concerns, the KHL suspended the 2020 Gagarin Cup playoffs for one week in order to reorganize the playoff bracket and monitor the COVID-19 virus. The following day the KHL announced that the playoffs would be suspended until April 10th, in accordance with recommendations made by the Russian Ministry of Sport. Finally, on Wednesday the league announced that the remainder of the playoffs would be cancelled due to COVID-19 virus concerns.
KHL has cancelled the 2020 #GagarinCup Playoffs due to COVID-19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/cPSfKzZVzI
— KHL (@khl_eng) March 25, 2020
“Unfortunately, we have to end the season. It was not a simple decision. We and the fans would like to see the continuation of the fight for the Gagarin Cup, but at the moment the health of players, their loved ones, employees and fans comes first,” said competition president Alexei Morozov.
The KHL statement noted that the decision was made because of COVID-19’s increased global reach. Discussions have been conducted with all parties involved and all have come to the common conclusion that the health of participants and spectators is the first priority.
The KHL said it had considered a number of scenarios, including one in which the playoffs would end in July, but the league management admits that these scenarios were unlikely to materialize. Account was also taken of the fact that some clubs were forced to withdraw from the playoffs and had to face problems with returning to Russia. The KHL described this possibility as being contrary to sporting principles, which would diminish viewers’ interest accordingly.
Eight teams had entered the second round of the Gagarin Cup – SKA, CSKA, Jokerit, Moscow Dynamo, Barys, Ak Bars, Sibir and Salavat Yulaev. Jokerit, represented by Jan Kalniņš, was the first to announce his withdrawal from the playoffs and was joined by Barys, which was initially followed by KHL’s decision to postpone the week in order to create a new game format.
On Monday, March 16, following the withdrawal of the two remaining teams in the KHL playoffs not based in Russia (Jokerit-Finland, Barys-Kazakhstan), the KHL announced it was suspending the playoffs for a week to restructure the playoff format and would then continue with the six remaining Russian teams.
The following day the KHL, along with the Russian Premier Football League and the VTB United Basketball League, announced they would be suspending competition until April 10 in the hope of slowing the spread of COVID-19. The announcement was made in accordance with recommendations made by the Russian Ministry Of Sport.