Media Review

27 february, 2012 13:43

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: "Government: 40 years of pride"

Vladimir Putin meets with veteran hockey players.

Vladimir Putin meets with veteran hockey players.

In Novo-Ogaryovo last Friday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met the hockey players who took part in the legendary 1972 Super Series on the 40th anniversary of these games. Talking with them over a cup of tea, the prime minister recalled that the series were the catalyst for establishing the Kontinental Ice Hockey League (KHL) in Eurasia.

Putin started by thanking the foreign hockey players for accepting the invitation to come to Moscow and promoting the further development of hockey. The Super Series participants were given a warm reception – they were offered tea from a Russian samovar and a cake in the form of an ice field with figurines of hockey players. To add to the atmosphere, the tables were spread with old Soviet newspapers featuring articles on the 1972 series.

The hockey veterans were pleased to hear that the echos of those games are still present. "And the memories of the series prompted us here in Russia to propose to set up the Kontinental Ice Hockey League. The idea was to give a new impetus to the development of ice hockey," Putin stressed. "Our KHL is, in some respects, a weak rival of the NHL, but it is moving up the gears, and I am sure that eventually it will be a strong and healthy rival. This is certain to raise the popularity of ice hockey. I am sure that you, who have done so much for world hockey, will back us on that," he said.

The Super Series were indeed of universal importance. Putin called them one of the ice hockey milestones of the 20th century. "The event made a strong impression on millions of people in North America – Canada and the United States – as well as in Europe and the Soviet Union. It was not merely the fact that top government officials turned their attention to hockey and became, in fact, directly involved in the events, but the change in most people's attitudes toward ice hockey and toward sport in general. Moreover, major international sporting events were seen in the context of the international politics of the day. Therefore, despite the tensions of the times, the 1972 series promoted and encouraged more normal, human relationships between people," Putin said.

The hockey players began to recall the past events as well. Phil Esposito, Team Canada forward, said: "Before the Super Series, we had no idea how good the Soviet players were. You were just brilliant! We thought it would be just an all-star game, nothing serious, just playing for the public. But it was the most challenging and the most exciting series of my life. There was nothing like it before that. You were playing with such passion, so we gave it all we had, and the series turned out to be the best of its kind."

Putin decided to praise both sides. He recalled that in the Soviet Union all the fans regarded our hockey players as national heroes. "But, to be honest, I must tell you guys that you were no less popular here. People in Russia remember you to this day," Putin said, addressing the Canadians.

IIHF President Rene Fasel thanked Putin for this special meeting and admitted that he was a Soviet fan during the Super Series. "I was just 22 years old, when the Super League was played. I was rooting for the Soviet Union. Please, forgive me, Canada," he said with a smile.

Maxim Makagonov