Ice hockey: Russia's KHL eyes westward expansion

Russia's Continental Hockey League (KHL) is set to expand its presence into Western Europe by accepting new members in the near future, the league president said Wednesday.

The Russian-led league - which already includes teams from the former Soviet Union as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia - was looking at accepting new members from Italy, Croatia and Poland, the league president Alexander Medvedev said.

"Currently there are three candidates interested in joining our league," Medvedev told the Sport Express daily.

"Those are the clubs from Milan, Zagreb and Gdansk. There's a possibility that one of those clubs will join the league in the next season. But the decision on new members and some possible league restructuring will be finalised later, after the end of the season."

Medvedev said that he considered the current KHL season to be the best to date in the league, adding that the tough battle for places in the play-offs in Western conference had been pulsating.

He also said that the entry of the Czech, Slovak and Ukrainian clubs into the KHL last year has seriously boosted interest in ice hockey in those countries.

"Czech national championship matches failed to attract more than five thousand spectators in hockey-mad Prague before their club joined KHL," he said.

"This season's derby with neighbours Slovan Bratislava attracted almost 16,000 fans."

Medvedev added that this season's home matches of Slovan in Bratislava have been pulling inaround 10,000 spectators on a regular basis.