MOSCOW – The Russian world champions were officially honoured in Moscow on Tuesday, nine days after winning the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
At the champions’ parade, broadcast live on TV, an open bus with the team and the trophy drove from Pushkin Square towards the Red Square, where the players were celebrated on a tribune and a concert was held in honour of the team. Thousands of fans came despite rainy weather conditions.
Captain Ilya Nikulin, followed by MVP Yevgeni Malkin and coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, each spoke to the fans.
“We played for you, it’s our common victory,” Nikulin said.
Vladislav Tretiak, the President of the Russian Hockey Federation, remembered the moments of the World Championship, especially the heated clash against Sweden on the opponents’ ice where Russia was trailing 3-1 before turning around a game that was full of surprise and intriguing moments.
“Everything was against us, but we managed to turn the course,” Tretiak said. “Zinetula Khaidyarovich [Bilyaletdinov] came into the dressing room and said: ‘Now it’s on you, team! And I’m convinced we will win.’” Victory after victory followed for a 10-0 record at the event.
Vitali Mutko, the Minister of Sport, called the team for what it was known for at the recent World Championship, “Krasnaya Mashina” – the Red Machine.
“On behalf of millions of sports and hockey fans I congratulate the Russian team for the brilliant victory and unselfish play. It was the Red Machine. We wish the team the victory at the Olympics in Sochi,” Mutko said.
For many players such a celebration with fans and the leadership of the country was a totally new experience.
“I didn’t expect such a celebration to be arranged for us in the very centre of Moscow,” Semyon Varlamov, one of the first-time world champions, told Sovietski Sport. “I will remember it forever. Let’s make this a tradition.”
Everybody on the team has now the athletes’ degree “Merited Master of Sport”. Russian President Vladimir Putin received the team in the presidential residence in the Novo-Ogaryovo district and awarded the degree on Tuesday to 15 players and two coaches who won the World Championship for the first time.
“On behalf of Russian fans and all sports-lovers, it is my great pleasure today to once again salute Russia’s national ice hockey team, to salute and congratulate you on your well-earned victory and express sincere gratitude for the way you played and the result that our entire nation witnessed,” Putin said in his speech.
“What you did this time was truly exceptional. It was simply outstanding, the highest level of performance. You demonstrated everything: character, stamina, and talent – without a doubt, pure talent.”
News and notes:
- Vladislav Tretiak, the President of the Russian Hockey Federation, announced that each player will receive a special championship ring with a Russian flag in ruby and diamonds.
- Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov plans a five-day camp for young NHL players end of August in Lausanne, Switzerland.
- KHL President Alexander Medvedev announced that the league will stage two regular-season games in Brooklyn, New York in January 2013. Possible teams could be CSKA Moscow, Dynamo Moscow, Avangard Omsk, Salavat Yulayev Ufa and SKA St. Petersburg.
- “Tough guy team” Vityaz Chekhov will continue to play in the KHL next season. The financial question marks are eliminated according to Medvedev, who told Sport-Express the team will continue to play with power and its fighting style, but stop “clowning around with goons”.
- Another team is threatened to disappear. According to media reports Metallurg Novokuznetsk is not able to pay the players and staff anymore as club sponsor Evraz won’t cover debts summing up to 250 million Rubles (€6m).
- The KHL will be joined by three foreign teams next year: Lev Prague (relocation of Slovak club Lev Poprad) will become the first Czech club and is expected to share the T-Mobile Arena with Sparta Prague after no agreement could be found with the bigger and newer O2 Arena, home of Slavia Prague. Other new entries will be Slovan Bratislava from Slovakia and Donbass Donetsk from Ukraine. There has been no news recently about Milano Rossoblù, the Italian club that was once announced to join the KHL for the 2012/2013 season.