Youth hockey players from across the US have arrived in Russia to take part in a trading program between the two nations and meet up with their idols, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Russian stars, who are playing in the KHL during the NHL lockout, are busy both on and off the ice.
Every fan dreams of having his picture taken with them, and one group of young hockey players from the US were no different.
They’ve made a very long trip across the Atlantic to see the likes of Kovalchuk and Datsyuk.
“Before this trip I never expected that we’ll meet them and I was in shock. It was awesome,” Ben Newman, an American youth hockey player, told RT.
The meeting was a part of an international program that supports efforts to strengthen relationships between the people of the United States and Russia.
And, as is often the case, sport is proving to be the best means of diplomacy.
“It really helped our cultural relationship,” Emelie Brigham, a program participant, said. “We have so many similarities with them and really few differences. It’s been great getting to know them and the culture of Russia.”
This exchange system started back in 2009, as a part of an agreement between the two countries. However, it's not only about playing hockey together.
“Ice hockey is just a medium – that’s what brings us together,” Brett Kingsbury, America’s youth hockey coach, stressed. “We all love this sport, we all play it. We play it a bit differently, but in the end of the day it’s still ice hockey. But it gets us all on the same page. And from there we start communicating and bringing our cultures together.”
Sport has often proved to be an effective diplomat, with schemes – including exchanges – bringing people together, in something they both enjoy, which more naturally improves cultural understanding.
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