Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tournament Origins

I thought I better clarify and make sure everybody understands I am not in Russia with Team Canada. I have received texts and emails thanking me for providing information and thought it prudent of me to let you know that I am very much on Canadian soil. I am maintaining limited contact with a couple of players and sifting through some Russian websites that I have found for information.

Both of those methods are proving to be a bit difficult as the players are having difficulties finding and maintaining suitable internet connections. As for the Russian websites, well let's just say I barely have a handle on the English language and have to rely on translation devices.

In my research I have come across some interesting interviews, articles and blogs from the likes of Vladislav Tretiak. Translating the context of these web pages from their inherent Russian to English leaves some sentences incoherent and less than complete. However most of it can be followed and contains tidbits of valuable information that shed light on the origins of this particular tournament.

The beginnings of this International Tournament, that BCHL players were invited to attend as members of Team Canada, can be traced back to a few days in February 2010 and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. In men's hockey to say that the Russian team failed to live up to expectations is an understatement. The disappointing results led mass resignations of Russian Olympic officials.

With Russia hosting the next Winter Olympics in 2014, the entire Olympic program was deconstructed and is being built up under the watchful eye of some key personnel. Within a month Vladislav Tretiak was put in charge of resurrecting the hockey program and he continues to be the face and the voice of hockey in Russia today.

Russian Hockey Legend, Vladislav Tretiak
Tretiak's vision was to bring back the fans and the young players by involving them directly and seeking input and opinions from them. Tretiak spoke directly to parents and pointed out the successes Russia has seen in recent years and encouraged youth to bring back that passion and pride for the game. He identified the need for more youth tournaments and private funding through sponsorships.

"We need to create the largest possible number of tournaments for all ages in all regions of Russia," said Vladislav Tretiak in his blog dated March 23, 2010. "It is necessary to revive the system of children and youth competitions in all villages, towns and cities to determine the best. However, this can not be done without state support through the Ministry of Sports. In addition, one of the ways to solve the funding problems I see is to attract investors from private individuals and companies on a statutory basis with the provision of tax incentives."

One year later and true to his word, there are more tournaments being held on Russian soil including the International Tournament that the boys from the BCHL representing Canada are attending. In a letter of welcoming, the Russian Hockey Federation identified Canada as one of the strong hockey countries that he wanted to participate. The newly created tournament is called the "Cup of the Region Centre" and it is seen as the first of many to come.

"After lengthy negotiations with the Canadian national hockey federation, Team Canada has arrived in Russian made up of players of the junior league," reads the translated press release from the Russian Hockey Federation. "Negotiations are underway with the heads of European national federations and perhaps next season (this tournament) will involve teams from the Scandinavian countries."

"All of these competitions, tournaments and events held in our country are focused on one big goal - a home Olympics, which in 2014 will be held in Sochi," writes Vladislav Tretiak. "We need to show that hockey is indeed our game!"

Despite the overwhelming desire to reassert themselves as a dominant hockey country, they have shown their Canadian visitors a high level of respect. When Team Canada first arrived they stayed at the Russian Olympic Hockey Village. They are being looked after with travel arrangements, food and housing. The boys have also been on a couple of sightseeing expeditions.

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