18 november, 2011 23:36  

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good evening, friends. We have just held two events: a meeting with the former coach of the national ice hockey team and the current one. I thanked Vyacheslav Bykov for the results. Don’t forget that before he took charge of the national team, it had not been making good progress for a long time. After he came, the situation changed: we became the winners of the World Championship and won two gold medals. Let’s thank him again and wish him success.

Well, I think that the supporters have calmed down as they always expect a victory. This is clear, this is how it should be. I’m sorry to say that they might have cooled off a bit because of the recent defeat ­­– sports are sports – but I have no doubt they are also grateful to you. And let’s wish success to the new coach of the national team (addresses Zinetula Bilyaletdinov). We can congratulate him on a successful performance of the national team on international arena. We wish you success.

We have gathered in the run-up to the 65th anniversary of national ice hockey. Our meeting relates both to this date and to entering the final stage in the preparations to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. Almost immediately after the games the World Championship will be held in Russia, so we will have a lot of ice hockey events.

As for the Olympics, all of us understand how much ice hockey means to you: your lives are inextricably linked with ice hockey. It is a special sport for millions of Russian people who love ice hockey. The entire country – I am not exaggerating – will look forward to a brilliant performance and the contest during the Olympic Games at home, in this country. This is a huge challenge for both the future members of the national team and its coach. We must make every effort to make it possible for both the ice hockey team and the national Olympic team to train and to succeed.

The second project we just completed is the reconstruction of the CSKA Moscow hockey club, at the request of Viktor Tikhonov. We have agreed – and the Defence Minister, who has this responsibility, will make the decision – that either the Defence Ministry or CSKA will be the founders of the new CSKA hockey club, together with our leading oil company, Rosneft. The company is prepared to do this. CSKA is transferring part of its land and a small parcel here at the CSKA club and joining the new club with this property, while Rosneft is prepared to either build from scratch or to reconstruct a new ice arena with a good ice surface and the requisite number of seats. They are prepared to invest several hundred million dollars in the project and further back the club financially until it becomes profitable.  

The ultimate goal is to make it profitable, but basically, we need to take all of our professional clubs to a level of profitability. It is obvious that this isn’t going to happen soon – but unless we do this we won’t be able to compete with the NHL, which is a business machine that builds an efficient financial structure that makes the clubs viable, and provides players with high incomes and insurance, and a very healthy retirement. I think this is a good initiative.

I met today with the people worried about these plans, and we understand the problems. The CSKA club is located in downtown Moscow, and it is also a facility for swimmers, figure skaters and wrestlers. Naturally, they were concerned about these plans, saying it could interfere with their regular schedule of events at these sports facilities, including where kids come to train. We agreed that the reconstruction will be performed in a way that will not disturb the rest of the facilities’ normal training sessions, and I would like to bring this to the attention of the Defence Ministry, the club and to Rosneft again. I hope it will work out this way. This is what I wanted to say up front.

There are some issues that I would like to emphasise. We discussed this here before, and I have checked it out now. First, we should pay greater attention to children’s sports, such as the Golden Puck hockey tournament. If you have any suggestions in this respect, I would be glad to hear them. If there is something additional we need to do in this area, we will gladly do it.

There is one more initiative, which comes from the public. I have checked it out in the mass media and on the internet - the unusual name “Russian NHL, the Night Hockey League” is becoming more common. This is about adults over 40 who get together to play hockey in the evening or at night, when ice rink rental fees are less, and they even form teams. This is a kind of public sports movement, and we could help these people as well. Any bureaucratic impediment should be avoided at all costs. Also, these people could receive assistance in these sports activities. There could be several hypothetical territorial zones, using one or two former outstanding athletes for each zone as organisers and coordinators. First, this would be engaging for the former athletes, and second, this would be of interest to those who are playing hockey. We could organise a finals tournament for them in Moscow on Victory Day, May 9. We could find sponsors who would cover travel, accommodation and ice rink or stadium rental expenses. Please just avoid any bureaucratic road blocks. They have to remain amateurs. Unlike the Golden Puck, where kids compete, these are adults. I just have to hear your advice on how we could provide support for these players. This is all I wanted to say at this point.

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At the meeting with former Russian hockey professionals, the possibility of establishing a hockey museum of fame in Moscow was discussed. According to Boris Mikhailov, the famous Russian coach, there are not many sports that can fill a whole museum, but hockey can. Vladimir Putin said that creating a museum of fame would be an "honourable act" and promised to discuss this issue with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia Vladislav Tretyak thanked the prime minister for his concern for hockey development and expressed his wish to see the ice rink construction programme continue.

Vladislav Tretyak invited Vladimir Putin to take part in the ceremonial meeting dedicated to the 65th anniversary of Soviet hockey, which will take place on December 16, and presented the prime minister with a commemorative medal. He also gave the prime minister a t-shirt signed by all the players in the Legends of Soviet Hockey club, with whom Vladimir Putin practiced on Friday.