The Kontinental Hockey League, which wrapped up its season on Wednesday, will add a team in Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, next season, according to James Ellingworth of the Associated Press.
The league will also add a Finnish team, Jokerit, and a team from central Russia, Lady Tolyatti, to give the KHL 31 teams in nine countries — Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Kazakhstan are the others. Jokerit will be the league's first team not based in an ex-Communist county.
Russia wants to preserve the Olympic Park as best it can and believes this is a good way to do it. The team will play in either Bolshoy Ice Dome, which hosted the men's and women's gold medal games, or Shayba Arena, which was the secondary hockey venue.
Writes Ellingworth, who reports that the team will be called the Leopards: "Sochi, a small city on the Black Sea coast, is far from Russian hockey's traditional fan base in central and eastern cities. The nearest KHL team is Donbass Donetsk in Ukraine.
"The confirmation of the team comes a week after Vladimir Katrenko, a director of Russia's state auditing agency, told parliament that the country's Sports Ministry "should take urgent measures" to improve inadequate Olympic legacy plans. The government also wants defunct local football club Zhemchuzhina Sochi to be revived. That team in all likelihood would eventually play at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, a 2018 World Cup venue."