The Sad, Sad Story of HC Donbass
What do you mean sad, sad story? HC Donbass is one of the most successful sports franchises in Eastern Ukraine--
As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, the Ukrainians quickly established the Ukrainian Hockey League Championship which is the equivalent of the Stanley Cup in America and Canada. Unfortunately, Ukrainian Hockey itself wasn't much better than Estonia's Meistriliiga.
As Ukrainian hockey struggled, most of the teams were based in and around the capital of Kyiv. In 2010, Borys Kolesnikov bought HC Donbass on the Eastern edge of Ukraine and turned it into a European Powerhouse. His first season in charge, HC Donbass won the Ukrainian Hockey League Championship with a 21-1-1 record. They would go on to win the Championship the next two seasons and were then invited to join the KHL in Russia.
HC Donbass joined the KHL in 2012 and missed the playoffs by a hair. In 2013, they were then eliminated from the playoffs in the second round of play. That season, Donbass stood toe to toe with historical KHL powerhouses like HC CSKA Moscow and HC Dynamo Moscow.
In 2014, HC Donbass was uninvited from the KHL. Why?
Well, the Russians invaded..... (Putin says they didn't invade.)
Well, the Russians burned down their home stadium....(Putin says he didn't burn down anything.)
And this is where things get really complicated. SOMEONE obviously burned down their arena. Supposedly that was pinned on the Donetsk People's Republic Army.
So HC Donbass took a year off to regroup before returning to the KHL, but they were never invited back. Instead they went back to the highest level of hockey in Ukraine and easily won their championship with a 36-3-3 record. But they had to start playing in the city of Druzhkivka, about a 2 hour ride to the north of Donetsk. They continued to win the UHL in 2018, 2019, and 2021 playing in an arena slightly larger than the arena where my local high school hockey team plays.
Why didn't owner Borys Kolesnikov abandon Eastern Ukraine all together? When Kolesnikov became majority owner of HC Donbass, it coincided with his elevation to the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine. Kolesnikov was one of the most powerful politicians over the past decade in Ukraine. In 2021, he left the Chairmanship of the Opposition Bloc to help form his own party Ukraine is Our Home.
With Ukraine on the brink of War and splintering factions continuing to fracture across the entire nation's landscape, Kolesnikov not only broke away from his old political party, but also from the Ukrainian Hockey Federation. From Kolesnikov down to individual players, just last month 171 members of the breakaway Ukrainian Hockey Super League were suspended from international play.
"With the IIHF siding with the Ukrainian Hockey Federation in Ukraine’s ongoing hockey civil war, Donetsk Donbas owner Borys Kolesnikov plans his next move while the Ukrainian Ministry of Sport stays silent." - Kyiv Post
So, today, HC Donbass' home is in a warzone and by next week could be in an entirely different country (whether it be Russia or the Donetsk's People's Republic.) HC Donbass could also be a team without a league depending on how the International Ice Hockey Federation rules.