Just hours after his inauguration, Russia’s new president Vladimir Putin laced up his skates to help an amateur ice hockey league squad top the country’s hockey legends in a gala match.
Ice hockey is huge in Russia, there is no question about it. Whether it’s the iconic summit series from 1972 or the countless medals at the Olympics, hockey has always been at the heart of Russia's sporting excellence.
And the newly created Russian Amateur Ice Hockey League aims to uphold that tradition.
Russian hockey legends, including two time Olympic gold winner Vyacheslav Fetisov, took to the ice in an end of season gala match against a select lucky bunch of amateur players.
It was a befitting day for such an event, as Russia continues to battle it out in the Ice Hockey World Championships and, of course, Putin’s inauguration as the president of the Russian Federation.
One could be forgiven for thinking the country's new head would have too much on his plate, having just been sworn in and all.
But in true Putin fashion, he found the time not only to show up, but also to help his band of amateur players beat the team of legends.
He scored almost as soon as he entered the fray. After setting up a vital last minute equalizer, he went on to secure his team's victory with a well taken penalty shot.
“I would like to say thank you to all our veterans,” Vladimir Putin said. “I know how they admire the developments in ice hockey, how they found the time to support our Russian Beginners Hockey League. I'm constantly shocked at how many of our older generations follow and support Ice Hockey and I want to wish everyone good luck.”
And to cap off a successful night, International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel found the time amidst the ongoing World Championships to attend and say a few warm words.
“Mr President, I congratulate you,” Fasel said in good Russian. “And dear friends, I love you all. Come on Russia.”
And with that, there's no doubt that the sport will have a staunch following for decades to come.
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