MINSK – For many years, Belarus has been the only top hockey nation with no registered female hockey players. Recently, the number increased to two players with Karina Shiptitskaya and Lidia Maliavka joining the Yunost Minsk hockey school. But that was still fewer women’s hockey players than countries like Andorra, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kuwait or Thailand.
This will soon change as the Belarusian Ice Hockey Association launched a women’s hockey program. With the creation of a professional team, Pantera, and two hockey school groups in Soligorsk for girls born 1997-2001, the country now has 31 female players.
The Panthers are coached by Vasili Pankov and Boris Tortunov is the director of the club. The Latvian Ice Hockey Federation accepted Pantera in its league that includes five women’s teams from Latvia and three from Estonia.
The women that could represent the country in international competition in the future began off-ice training in August in Logoisk, followed by a team presentation at the National Olympic Committee. This month the Panteras players began on-ice practice. The goal is to build up a women’s national team and a women’s junior national team and be able to join IIHF competitions in the future.
The Belarusian ladies will have their first test when the Latvian league kicks off on October 16. The goal is to win a medal in the nine-team league.
The Panteras players pose for the first-ever team photo of a Belarusian women’s squad.