Amateurs like professionals
By Dmitry Komarov
From January 4th to 7th, national teams from Austria, Canada, Russia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Belarus fought on three Minsk ice rinks: at Minsk Arena, the Ice Palace and the Sports Palace.
According to the Chairman of the Belarusian Hockey Federation, Yevgeny Vorsin, twelve teams were keen to take part but only eight were able to attend, as the organisers were ‘restricted by a finite number of days for the competition’. Those chosen for the two qualifying subgroups trained thoroughly in preparation. Despite the amateur status of the tournament, some of the squad members have already topped the hockey hierarchy, taking part and winning medals at world championships and the Olympic Games. Several of the players are quite famous, having long been idols of amateur sportsmen. The current head coach of Belarus’ national team, Kari Heikkila, took to the rink for the Finnish team.
Despite their maturity (in sporting terms) the legends didn’t disappoint, even at the preliminary stage. The matches saw a tough struggle worthy of professional ice hockey. The Belarusians have won and, in the finals, the President’s team sought revenge on the Russians (who defeated them last year, on penalties) and celebrated a clear victory — 4:1.
In previous years, the Belarusian team has won the Christmas tournament five times (in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010). The Russians have claimed success twice.