Conversation about sport, and hockey in particular

Alexander Lukashenko conducts session discussing development of hockey, and wider sports in the country

Alexander Lukashenko conducts session discussing development of hockey, and wider sports in the country

We have many good recollections connected with hockey, including the IIHF World Championship, held in Minsk; specialists called it the best achievement since we beat Sweden at the Olympics in Salt Lake City. Moreover, Dinamo Minsk regularly gathers full stands at Minsk-Arena, with Belarusians viewing ice hockey as more than just sport: it’s a social phenomenon.

The World Championship in Minsk — one of the brightest pages in the history of Belarusian ice hockey

It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of all boys dream of becoming a courageous ice hockey player, hitting the ice with a flourish. The image is romanticised similarly to that of Alexandre Dumas’ Musketeers!

However, there’s a paradox, since we still lack sufficient talented players, despite numerous ice hockey schools and rinks, and an unprecedented financing programme at state level.

Dinamo Minsk hasn’t played well this season, noted Mr. Lukashenko during the session, saying, “I’m more than concerned with the state of affairs in ice hockey. If this trend continues, the most radical measures will need to be taken promptly. As for HC Dinamo Minsk, they are going from best to worst. Today, we might win with a five-goal advantage, then lose with the same goal difference tomorrow. There’s no consistency.”

Moreover, the President underlines, “The state lacks money to spare so clubs need to become self-sufficient, earning income, and spending it, according to the country’s laws. State support will reduce according to my decisions.”

In 2014 alone, billions of Roubles were spent on the provision of facilities and equipment for ice hockey clubs, so there should be a corresponding ‘return’.

Discussion focused on how best to identify young talent and attract experienced coaches eager to work with children. The Belarusian Athletics Federation’s project ‘300 Diamonds for the Queen’ was named as a good example.

One of the major messages of the meeting was that clubs must become more independent, and promote Belarusian players. For instance, Dinamo should employ no more than a couple of foreign players, so that Belarusians have the opportunity to take a leading role in national teams. Meanwhile, the aim is to unify junior and adult teams under a single system.

The Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, Igor Rachkovsky, commented, “It was a very constructive meeting, with clear decisions made. Moreover, we voiced to the President our proposals regarding the development of the domestic championship. These include the introduction of a minimum level of salary, in order to protect players: a modest amount of Br8.5m. Half of the players in the country’s championship receive this minimum rate while the maximum is 10-fold more, at Br85 (as earned by just over 10 of the top players). As far as Dinamo is concerned, the major task is to find a new head coach. Candidates have been identified. Importantly, we want Dave Lewis’ assistants to be on the coaching staff of Dinamo Minsk.”

The Federation is to gain greater power, including making all major appointments. Fans will be pleased to hear that Belarus is aiming to host another world championship. Plans are being elaborated, with Mr. Rachkovsky noting that the Federation will make every effort to win the application for an event sometime after 2022. Naturally, our national team will have to raise its game to prove its worth: a long journey lies ahead.

By Sergey Kanashits
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