Once again, the prestigious 12th Christmas International Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament for the Prize of the President of Belarus has taken place in Minsk.
This year the national team of Belarus celebrated victory. In the final the President’s team met with the national team of Finland. Both teams went through the group stage without losing any points and both have an impressive selection of players. The final of the Christmas tournament was keenly anticipated and the game did not disappoint. The spectators held their breath at points as duels of such skill, speed and commitment are not often seen even in professional championships. The spectators were even treated to a bout of fisticuffs, an integral part of professional hockey! The Belarusian Canadian, Daniel Corso, was aggressively guarding the goal, the nerves of the Finnish defenders eventually snapped and they reacted with their fists. Corso was well able to stand up for himself, pleasing the public immensely!
When the final buzzer sounded, the board showed the score 2:1 in favour of the President’s team!
The arrival of the Finnish team in the final may be unexpected to some, but compared to previous tournaments, the current competition has seen great improvements, mainly in the fact that it is no longer merely a veteran and amateur gathering, but hockey at a high level. We are used to hockey stars visiting Minsk during January. Dozens of legends have played in our Amateur World Championships since they began. Now however, we are seeing not only sportsmen from the 1980s but those who have only recently retired from professional sport.
The tournament is not only about goals and points, it also offers the opportunity for different countries and cultures to get together. The hockey players who gathered in Minsk spoke many different languages. The Minsk tournament has become the most popular informal world amateur ice hockey championship. It has also acquired its own traditions, one of which is the meeting of hockey players with children from the orphanages. This is the fourth year that players from the Christmas tournament have visited children who are without families. This year, representatives of all teams went to Radoshkovichi boarding school for orphans. 86 pupils at the school range from 5 to 18 years old. They welcomed the visitors warmly and showed them a New Year performance which they had prepared. After that the hockey players chatted with the children and gave them gifts.
Summing up the tournament, Alexander Lukashenko said, “The 12th Christmas tournament has stuck in my mind because of the fact that there were a lot of strong teams, who play in championships in their own countries, in the championship of Belarus. It tells me that our tournament is increasing in popularity. I know it is the intention of some teams for next year to show an even stronger composition of players, the Slovak and Russians teams to name but two.”
This tournament has gone for this year but the Christmas tradition will continue next time. We are looking forward to it!
By Kirill Karin