KHL outfit Admiral Vladivostok has become the first major European hockey club to pull out of 2020-21 league play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move comes a week after the KHL announced it would not resume its 2019-20 campaign and finish the post-season with just six teams remaining. Jokerit Helsinki and Barys Nur Sultan, two KHL clubs not based in Russia, backed out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals over travel- and health-related issues.
In a release posted on the team website, Vladivostok cited a decision by the Regional Operational Headquarters and the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports of Primorsky Krai to suspend sports teams for the upcoming season as the reason for the club's departure. The release also said that the team's largest sponsor, the Vladivostok Commercial Sea Port, is also adversely affected by the situation and was unlikely to finance the team as planned.
There isn't any indication when Vladivostok expects to return to KHL action, if ever, but the team said it hopes "that the virus will be defeated, the championships will resume, and fans will again see the KHL matches at the Fetis Arena." The organization will continue to support its junior squad, Taifun Primorsky Krai, based in Ussuriysk, RUS.
Vladivostok has struggled on ice from the get-go since entering the league in 2013. The team had nine coaches in its seven-year history (although Leonids Tambijevs was set to become the 10th next season) and had just five playoff victories, and not a single series victory, in three trips to the post-season. Admiral is coming off of one of the worst seasons in team history, a non-playoff effort totalling 56 points in 62 games – tying Traktor Chelyabinsk for last in the Eastern Conference and 22nd in the 24-team league.
Vladivostok's 2019-20 roster had just three games of NHL experience between Shawn Lalonde and Adam Almquist. Niclas Bergfors, Jonathon Blum, Mike Commodore, Enver Lisin, Oskars Bartulis and David Booth are among the former NHLers that have skated with the club in the past.
Want more in-depth features and analysis? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.