Ice Hockey

When booking tickets to watch a sport that you have no idea about, it’s always good to watch the best teams. So Max and I did a little research and having established that our local team CKA were really quite good and made the playoffs last year, our next challenge was to pick an opposing team that would give them a good game. Having spent a good half an hour researching the KHL (the Kontinental Hockey League), we came to the conclusion that it would be great to see one of the Moscow teams, either CSKA (not to be confused with CKA – they get quite angry if you do that)  or Dinamo Moscow. Having looked at the fixture list we saw that the CSKA game was a while of and decided to settle for the Dinamo game. Wednesday 18th September, clash of the titans, last years winners, against title hopefuls this year, St Petersburg against…. Dinamo Minsk?! Apparently our half an hour of research had proven to be completely redundant as in our excitement, we apparently confused DMS and DMK, one letter proving to be the difference between Minsk and Moscow, 440 miles, and most crucially between a reasonably competent hockey team and one of the league’s whipping boys. Having had our excitement slightly checked, we hopped on the metro (actually a really poor choice of word – you don’t simply just hop on the metro, it takes about 3 mins to go down the escalators because it’s so deep!)  and headed to the Ice Palace. Here are just a few things I learnt about Ice Hockey in St Petersburg last Wedensday;

– To make your team seem more manly, imposing and terrifying its very important to spend what must have been the whole pre season filming a Viking battle seen where your key players are seen in chain mail and helmets vanquishing Barbarians. Oh and make sure the film lasts for at least twenty minutes and key scenes are replayed and various, seemingly odd points throughout the game.

– Don’t sing the Russian National anthem, or if you do make it seem very half-hearted and sort of look down at the floor when you do. Or conversely stare blankly ahead and hold your scarf above your head.

– Do however enthusiastically clap in time whenever pop music is played throughout the course of the three periods…..which is apparently every two minutes.

– Ice hockey itself doesn’t seem like a very exciting game without fights. There’s not much that can be said for a sport when it’s most exciting features are substitutions…

– Subsitutions in Ice Hockey are very impressive – the frequency and speed with which players interchange is absolutely breathtaking. I probably spent as much time watching the two benches as players skated in and out at manic speeds as I did watching the gameplay (which was just as well as our seats were right behind the opposition bench and most of the time they were obstructing our view of the game).

– It is perfectly normal in Russia to wear your wedding gear to an Ice Hockey game and as a result be rewarded with 20 seconds on kiss cam. Personally, I was surprised that only two such couples were at the game – I was expecting a lot more!

– Arsene Wenger and Neil Lennon would be very impressed with the Dinamo Minsk coach. Having conceded their fourth goal, he decided that instead of speaking to his players he would just throw water bottles around. Which had similar results to this….

– Dinamo Minsk are absolutely atrocious, and CKA are really quite good. Or being perfectly honest, on the basis of the game that we saw, CKA could be quite average, but Dinamo Minsk are undeniably awful at Ice Hockey.

– Minsk were so pathetic that A) they didn’t even go down with a fight, and B) the CKA players felt too sorry for them to beat them up which was most disappointing.

– There can’t be much to do in Minsk on a Wednesday evening, as 20 naive people decided to trek the 489 miles from Minsk to St Petersburg to watch their team get absolutely stuffed. I genuinely think watching the same episode of ‘Loose Women’ on repeat would have been more enjoyable for them.

– Finally, whilst I am sure it is clear that I wasn’t completely enamored with the sport, Ice Hockey as a spectacle in Russia is superb. Mexican Waves, kiss cam, the Ultras, short films about Viking invasions staring hockey players, cheerleaders everywhere you look and Taylor Swift playing every five minutes is a very, very difficult combination to beat, and as a result, tomorrow I plan on buying tickets to the Dinamo MOSCOW game.