UFA – The 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship will be held in the Russian city of Ufa from 26 December 2012 to 5 January 2013. It is the most eastern venue in the 37 years of the tournament.
Ufa was founded about 450 years ago, offering fans who visit the city some history. There was a large settlement in ancient times on the land of today’s Ufa, which existed as a station for caravan routes connecting the regions of Central Asia, Siberia and the Volga region to the European part of Russia.
Note: This article was published with the launch of the official 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship website in English and Russian, www.worldjunior2013.com. The story is also available in Russian.
Nowadays Ufa is a major transportation hub, being at the intersection of rail, air and river traffic, pipelines and highways that connect European Russia with the Ural mountains and Siberia.
Historically, Ufa has been home to a variety of nationalities, cultures and religions. The city is dominated by three ethnic groups: Turks, Slavs and Finno-Ugric peoples. In total, there are representatives of more than a hundred nationalities. The major religions in the city are Christianity and Islam. By and large, the city is a boundary of sorts between the eastern and western world.
In this respect, Ufa’s architecture is characterized by a combination of different styles and traditions. Many temples related to the era of classicism survived, including the Church of the Intercession (1823), the Redeemer Church (1824) and other monuments.
Among the architectural heritage of the building stands the Bashkir State Opera and the Ballet Theatre, where world-famous opera singer Fyodor Shalyapin made his professional debut singing in a choir. Also outstanding dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev was born in Ufa.
To this day, the city continues to produce talent, being home to popular musicians Yuri Shevchuk, Zemfira, violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov, writer Sergei Dovlatov, along with many famous athletes such as Igor Kravchuk and Alexander Semak.
The history of hockey in Bashkortostan also took place at the crossroads of different cultures and trends. First bandy came to the region and enjoyed popularity. The local team Spartak achieved respectable results in the USSR championships, reaching once, in the early fifties, the semi-finals.
The first hockey game in Ufa was played on 18 February 1953. That match was part of the USSR Cup, and for athletes from Ufa hockey with a puck rather than with a bandy ball was an entirely new experience. When the first game was played, the sport was presented as an exhibition for what initially was called “Canadian hockey” in the Soviet Union.
The first ice hockey teams were founded in 1953-54 by groups of workers from local factories and it was purely amateur.
All equipment was self-made by the players. Sticks were made from beech trees, skates were taken from bandy and bicycle helmets were used to protect the head.
The sport was really organized only in 1963, when one of the most successful hockey clubs of post-Soviet Russia appeared in the lowest national championship, class "B" – Salavat Yulayev Ufa.
The team was named in honour of the Bashkir national hero Salavat Yulayev and found itself on the path to the elite of Soviet hockey rather quickly. In just three years Salavat Yulayev played its first game in the top tier league.
The team has come a long way since then. Today’s fully professional Salavat Yulayev is a two-time champion of Russia (2008, 2011) and a three-time regular-season winner. Internationally, Salavat Yulayev was part of the Champions Hockey League in the 2008/2009 season.
After blazing through the group stage with a clean record, Salavat Yulayev reached the semi-final but lost the home-and-away series against the other Russian participant, Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
At present, there are a lot of well-known players on the roster such as Alexander Svitov, Oleg Saprykin, Sergei Zinoviev, Vitali Proshkin, Miroslav Blatak and Vitali Atyushov.
Salavat Yulayev plays its games at Bashkortostan’s largest venue for ice sports, the 2007-built Ufa Arena, which will be the main venue for the IIHF World Juniors. The second venue will be the Sports Palace Salavat Yulayev, which was renovated for the event. Both venues are easily accessible from anywhere in the city.
For any hockey fan a winter trip to Ufa will be an interesting journey. Although the capital of Bashkortostan is known as a large scientific and industrial centre of Russia, this amazing city is also famous not only for hockey, but also as one of the most green and spacious cities in Russia.