Ukrainian champion Donbass Donetsk is to be admitted to the KHL, the hockey league`s president Alexander Medvedev said Tuesday, according to RIA Novosti.There was no timeframe indicated, but if the team is registered for next season`s competition it would take the potential number of new faces to five.
That would mark a significant step forward in the KHL`s quest to expand the Russian-centered league across the continent.
Donbass`s Ice Palace Druzhba is a low-capacity arena at 4,500 seats, falling short of KHL requirement of 10,000, but Medvedev said the league was willing to turn a blind eye for now.
"Donbass will play as an exception, the arena hasn`t been upgraded by 5,500 seats yet," he said.
Donbass is the only Ukrainian team to play in the Russian Major League after splitting with their affiliate, HC Donbass-2 following the 2010-11 season.
Meanwhile, the KHL will also have representation from Slovakia and the Czech Republic as Medvedev confirmed the participation of powerhouse Slovan Bratislava and Lev Poprad.
Poprad is a town in Slovakia but Lev is moving to a new arena in Prague after reaching an agreement with the Czech Ice Hockey Federation.
"Lev of Prague will definitely play, and Slovan will definitely play," Medvedev said.
The fate of two other teams negotiating entry into the KHL was unclear.
The Milano Rossoblu hockey club told RIA Novosti in March that it would make a final decision in April on whether to join the KHL.
The long-mooted addition of the Italians, from the second-tier Serie B, hangs on their financial security, and president Ico Migliore said he was loathed to enter his club next season without guarantees it can remain long term.
"Milan really wants to come in, but a lot of things need to be cleared up," Medvedev said.
HK Poprad, another team from the northern Slovak spa town, had been bidding to enter but reportedly had trouble providing guarantees of financial stability. Medvedev made no mention of the team.