Minsk has hosted the international Christmas amateur ice hockey tournament for the President of Belarus’ prize, with eight teams from various countries gathering in the Belarusian capital for another sporting treat for all ice hockey fans.
The Belarusian team wins the 12th Christmas International Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament for the Prize of the President of the Republic of Belarus
Alexander Lukashenko, attending the opening ceremony, pointed out that one of the peculiarities of this competition that traditionally opens the new sporting year in Belarus, is the succession of professional and mass sports that follows. “These competitions have already become a calling card of our country and gained wide popularity in many countries while becoming an unofficial world amateur ice hockey championship.”
Undoubtedly, any ice hockey player that appeared on the Chizhovka-Arena ice would agree. On leaving the Minsk ice, competitors become friends again and are eager to speak to the waiting fans and journalists about their former professional daily routine and the atmosphere of the Christmas tournament, being unembarrassed by the figures on the scoreboard. For example, last year, the national squad of the United Arab Emirates became the most widely discussed team of the tournament because of its presence and due to its limited ‘Arab’ composition. This time, the number of Middle East native residents is higher. However, the first meeting with their rivals from Slovakia (3:14) vividly demonstrated that the southerners have come to snow-covered Belarus to gain experience rather than to win prizes.
The Arab ice hockey players are an exception to the rule. Despite the amateur status of the competition, there were a number of former professionals amongst the players to ensure a competitive atmosphere. “For most players the result is of great importance, so I try to play as well as I can,” notes Slovak forward Miroslav Šatan.
The first day of the competition showed that even the slightest loss of concentration on the Minsk ice can cost a lot. As soon as the Finns felt too confident the Germans immediately reduced the gap in the score. Similarly, the Swiss team managed to score five pucks after a lapse in concentration by the hosts. The Russian national team was the major sensation of the tournament. In previous years, they easily qualified for the finals and have won the tournament on three occasions. This year, the owners of the cup lacked preparation and, as a result, the Russians suffered a devastating defeat from the Swedes in the first match — 1:8 — and had to fight fiercely for the right to continue their victorious tradition.
However, this year, the Belarusian team, playing against Finland in the finals, celebrated victory, with the final whistle fixing the score at 2:1 score in favour of the President’s team.
By Dmitry Komashko