SOCHI, May 10 /ITAR-TASS/. President Vladimir Putin is in excellent shape and can play hockey quite well for an amateur, Russian ice hockey star Pavel Bure said after the final game of the Night Hockey League (NHL) among amateur teams in Sochi on Saturday, May 10.
Playing with Bure and another ice hockey veteran, Valery Kamensky, in the same troika, Putin scored 11 times (6 goals and 5 assists), leading the team to a 21:4 victory.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] has set himself the goal of playing hockey. Several years ago he said: ‘I will do it!’ Now you can see the result - six goals. One needs all the skillfulness to score so many times. That the president of the world’s largest country with a busy schedule has learnt to play ice hockey and found time for that is an indication of his excellent shape,” Bure said.
This is not the first time Putin plays ice hockey. Having practiced martial arts almost his entire life, six years ago, Putin, almost 60 at that time, promised young athletes to learn to skate and play hockey and kept his word. In 2012, he played in a gala match at a tournament of amateurs over the age of 40. On the day of his inauguration on May 7, 2012, he appeared on ice in a team of amateurs against Russian ice hockey stars.
The president also played ice hockey with the president of Finland in June 2012 when they met for talks at one of the resorts in the Leningrad Region. They played in the uniform of the same colour and on the same team.
In January of this year, Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko played against Russian hockey stars at Sochi’s ice palace Bolshoi (Grand).
Putin and Lukashenko appeared on the ice in red uniform to play against hockey legends such as Irek Gimayev, Alexander Golikov, Nikolai and Sergei Makarov, Alexander Mogilny, and Alexander Yakushev, who were clad in white. The latter were also joined by Kremlin property manager Vladimir Kozhin and entrepreneur Gennady Timchenko, who is the chairman of the board of directors of the Continental Hockey League and president of the ice hockey club CSK St. Petersburg.
The “presidential” team had enough “heavyweights” to accept the challenge: Vyacheslav Fetisov, Pavel Bure, Alexander Kozhevnikov, Andrei Kovalenko, Alexei Gusarov, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
From the very start, the “presidential” team vigorously attacked the opponents’ positions and netted the first goal on the fourth minute, scoring three more times before the break. The “reds” led 8:2 after the second period and won the game with a score of 12:3.
Saturday’s NHL game in Sochi began with a minute of silence for those killed in Ukraine’s Mariupol on May 9.
Playing in the game were several ice hockey stars such as Vyacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov, Pavel Bure, Valery Kamensky, Viktor Shalimov, Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Makarov, Alexei Zhamnov, and Alexander Yakushev.
The team of amateurs included Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyov,and entrepreneurs Gennady Timchenko, and Arkady and Boris Rottengerg.
Defying sport traditions, playing in the men’s team this time was Natalia Rogozina, a legendary boxing champion.
The NHL festival took place on May 3-5 and involved 108 teams from 55 Russian regions and 11 foreign countries.
“It’s encouraging to see that the tournament [created by Putin in 2002] is becoming an international event. What matters is not the score but the number of people who have come here: practically full arena, over 10,000 people. What a holiday!” Bure said.
“This is the real popularisation of hockey. There is no need to be a professional athlete to do that. I am also an amateur now,” Bure said, smilingly.
The main prize of the festival went to Yekaterinburg’s Neoplan. According to the festival’s rules, a new ice palace will now be built in this Urals city.
“There are no winners or losers here. This is a friendly game. It’s a show and everyone enjoyed it. All this [the Night Hockey League] was invented to give an additional boost to the development of sports and physical culture,” Putin said after the award ceremony and said he was talking about mass sports.
The Night Hockey League was created for the purpose of developing amateur hockey with the support of the president and Russian ice hockey veterans.