Jubilee Christmas tournament is prelude to major hockey cup 2014
Belarusian President’s team wins 10th Christmas amateur ice hockey tournament, recently held in Minsk
By Dmitry Baranovsky
At the invitation of Vladimir Putin, Mr. Lukashenko recently found time to visit pre-Olympic Sochi, where he appeared on the ice in the team of his Russian colleague. Before the two heads of state joined forces to play on the same squad, Mr. Lukashenko took a tour of the Ice Palace, which will be hosting hockey matches during the Winter Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, the Belarusian national squad won’t be taking part in the Games, having failed to qualify. Nevertheless, the Belarusian President tested the ice and, with Mr. Putin, achieved a convincing victory of 12:3, helped by such stars as Vyacheslav Fetisov, Valery Kamensky, Pavel Bure and Alexander Kozhevnikov. The two presidents chatted informally before Mr. Lukashenko returned to Minsk to join the Belarusian squad, performing at the Christmas tournament.
The victorious tradition continued, with the President’s team defeating the Russian squad without losing a single match, either in the group stage or in the play-offs. The old rivals were greeted by a full house at Minsk-Arena, and gave the most exciting match in the history of the competition. Regular time brought a score of 2:2, leading to forward Stepan Ponomarev scoring the decisive puck during the penalty shoot-out; this brought the Belarusian team its eighth title as winner of the Christmas amateur ice hockey tournament. Of course, the event was more than a piece of festive fun: it was a trial run for May’s World Championship. Players from the 12 squads were invited to give feedback, with journalists keen to learn how the Canadians, Swedes, Slovaks and other entrants viewed the facilities and organisation — at the arena and beyond.
“Everything was perfect from the moment we landed in Minsk. This tournament, its atmosphere and all other details truly remind us of the World Championship. Our whole team has only the best impressions from time spent here,” notes Roland Carlsson, the captain of the Finnish national team. His team, having earned bronze, had the opportunity to try the ice at the new arena. Playing in the semi-final, the Russians and Finns brought an ‘international ticket’ to the second venue of the forthcoming great event: Chizhovka-Arena. The smaller of the two rinks was fully available to the teams for the first time.
Dmitry Shamolin, on the Russian national squad, expressed the common opinion, saying, “We’ve all enjoyed playing here. The ice and locker rooms are perfect, as are both arenas. It’s the most luxurious sports complex, worthy of welcoming international tournaments. Judging by what we’ve seen here, Belarus has every chance of conducting one of the best World Championships.”