The Kontinental Hockey League is an international professional ice hockey league founded in 2008. It comprises member clubs based in Belarus, China, Finland, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and Russia for a total of 24. It is widely considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in Europe and Asia, and the second strongest in the world behind North America's National Hockey League. The KHL has the third-highest average attendance in Europe with 6,121 spectators per game in the regular season, and the highest total attendance in Europe with 5.32 million spectators in the regular season.
The league formed from the Russian Superleague (RSL) and the champion of the 2007–08 season of the second division, with 24 teams: 21 from Russia and one each from Belarus, Latvia, and Kazakhstan. The teams were divided into four divisions, based on the performance in previous seasons.
The start of the fourth season was overshadowed by the Yaroslavl air disaster on 7 September 2011 in which almost all members of the team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl lost their lives shortly after take-off for their flight to their season-opening game in Minsk. The Opening Cup game in Ufa, which was already underway when news of the disaster arrived, was suspended. In memory of the disaster, 7 September remained a day of mourning on which no KHL regular-season games took place, until after the 2017–18 KHL season.
Journalist Vsevolod Kukushkin acted as the first press secretary for the league, after it evolved from the Superleague.