Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with senior executives of the Russian Amateur Hockey League during a working visit to the Tomsk Region


The conversation focused on the opening of League games, which have just started in Tomsk and will be held in 75 Russian regions. The top 90 teams will go on to Moscow for the finals. The prime minister also said that he planned to hold celebrations in Moscow for the 40th anniversary of the historical series of matches between the NHL and the Soviet national teams.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Yakushev (Alexander Yakushev, president of the Russian Amateur Hockey League), Mr Myshkin (Vladimir Myshkin, facilitator in charge of the Siberian Region, Russian Amateur Hockey League) how did the opening of the tournament of our hockey league go today?

Alexander Yakushev: Are you talking about our project?

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Alexander Yakushev: Seventy-five regions gave their consent. Teams have been formed and our league games have begun. We have 12 teams here in Tomsk and the Tomsk Region.

Vladimir Putin: That’s impressive.

Alexander Yakushev: Very much so. We began competitions today.

Vladimir Putin: Did you see the teams play?

Alexander Yakushev: Yes, we saw one game this morning. They showed so much enthusiasm. It’s hard to believe that you are watching people aged 40 and above, because they are like children…

Vladimir Putin: Rushing about?

Alexander Yakushev: Yes, they have so much energy. The mood was truly celebratory, which was very pleasant to see…

Vladimir Putin: In other words, the idea that we’ve been trying to implement is finding resonance?

Alexander Yakushev: Yes. We will start moving out to more remote locations. We have facilitators in each region. We will go to these regions and explore the situation. I believe that this is a truly great idea, and we will hold the final games in Moscow. There will be 90 participating teams plus 16 female league’s teams.

Vladimir Putin: That’s 106 teams.

Alexander Yakushev: This is a much needed and very important event.

Vladimir Putin: If I understand correctly, there will be about 100 teams participating, and we will be able to hold finals in Moscow within one week?

Alexander Yakushev: That's right.

Vladimir Putin: Are you going to use the Olympic system? The losing team is eliminated from the tournament?

Alexander Yakushev: We worked it out in a way that no losing team will have to go home. All teams will be playing all week. First, we break the teams into groups; five teams in each group. The first winner will continue playing. The rest will battle for second and third place, but everyone will have a chance to play the optimum quantity of games.

Vladimir Putin: Did you like the quality of the game, the professional level of players here in Tomsk?

Alexander Yakushev: You can’t help being won over by their spirit, their desire to play. There are guys of all shapes and sizes playing. Some are sporting bellies, some aren’t…

Vladimir Putin: There’s no way around it. It’s not a youth team…

Alexander Yakushev: But all of them are truly excited about the game. It was a pleasure just to watch them.

Vladimir Myshkin: I liked the level of the goalkeepers. I’d never thought that they would be that good. They would drop to their knees to stop a puck and come back up in no time. I’m pleasantly surprised.

Vladimir Putin: They were playing for keeps …

Vladimir Myshkin: Yes, just like the big leagues.

Alexander Yakushev: That's right.

Vladimir Putin: That’s great. We have an anniversary coming up. We should celebrate the games with Canada.

Alexander Yakushev: The 40th anniversary.

Vladimir Putin: Correct. I asked the minister of sport to speak with our friends and colleagues from Canada. This is also important, because we need to make sure that our players who are now playing for the NHL come to the Olympic Games in 2014. They should be aware of things in advance so as to be able to adjust their schedule accordingly. I’d like to invite our friends and colleagues from Canada and your colleagues and acquaintaces who played 40 years ago. Many of them are still working in the sports industry and maintain an influence in the NHL. We should invite them over here and talk about it. I’d like you to join in this work.

Alexander Yakushev: Thank you. This is a truly great idea.

Vladimir Putin: Not only talk. Perhaps, you can even play a game of hockey with them.

Vladimir Myshkin: We will, if they bring along their uniforms. We have ours with us at all times.

Vladimir Putin: We do have a uniform. We will talk with them and perhaps have some kind of ceremony; not for the sake of the competition, but just so that fans from Canada and Russia can relive the old times and pay tribute to all that you and your Canadian colleagues have done for international hockey.

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