The 2020-21 Kontinental Hockey League officially saw its opening day come and pass on Wednesday from across the pond. Having cancelled the 2019-20 season following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-based league moved onward with a typical September start to this hockey season. However, the opening couple days were anything but typical.
Due to political unrest in Belarus, Jokerit Helsinki also made the decision not to fly to Minsk for their scheduled opener against Dinamo. The KHL agreed with Jokerit’s reasoning and then announced that the game would be classified as ‘postponed/rescheduled’. But later in the day, the league announced that Jokerit would be charged with a forfeit loss as for not arriving in Minsk for the contest.
What a mess.
Then in Riga, prior to the game between Barys Nur-Sultan and Dinamo Riga, one of the referees for the game tested positive for COVID-19, which then saw the removal of the entire officiating crew for the game.
It gets worse.
Habarovsk Amur also suffered a serious COVID-19 breakout, prompting the club to release the statement: ‘Due to COVID-19, we won’t be able to play with our best roster. We have recalled players from our junior team to help.’ The makeup of the roster is expected to be loaded with players from both the VHL and MHL.
That being said, through it all, a variety of players familiar to Manitoba kicked off the KHL season on the right note. Winnipeg’s Nigel Dawes – who finished fifth in KHL scoring in 2019-20 and has been in the top-three in league scoring each of the prior three seasons – picked up a point in his first game of the year.
The 35-year-old Winnipegger has hit the 50-point mark every year since the 2014-15 season, topping out at 69 points in 2018-19. In 119 total regular season games with Avtomobilist, the powerful forward has 48 goals and 119 points. He remains the KHL’s fifth-highest scorer all-time with 244 goals and 463 points in 498 games played.
Dawes’ teammates Alexander Burmistrov and Patrice Cormier (who both spent significant time within the Winnipeg Jets organization) were held pointless. Former NHL star Pavel Datsyuk collected two assists in his lone game, while Alex Semin also earned two helpers. Magnus Svensson Paajarvi and Markus Granlund each put up a goal and assist in their first game action of the season. With much more KHL hockey to come, the news can most certainly only get better…