Tretyak, Rotenberg and Russian hockey to face unfamiliar challenge

Nobody waits for us in this sport

The IIHF World Championship ended in Edmonton, Canada. Russia didn’t compete in the tournament, moreover, as the president of the international federal said, our hockey will miss the next international season too. Perhaps, it will be harder for us to return to the international competition precisely in hockey, which Realnoe Vremya’s sports staff is afraid of.

What’s going on?

The world championship was interrupted on 29 December last year because of a big number of coronavirus infection cases. New President of the International Hockey Federation Luke Tardif didn’t punish the organisers but annulated match results and resumed the championship in August eliminating team Russian from the number of competitors. So most of the Russian generation born in 2002 missed both the junior world championship (cancelled because of coronavirus) and the IIHF World Championship. And at the moment it is necessary to realise that Latvia replaced Russia at the 2022 IIHF World Championship, the youth team of Belarus hasn’t competed in two IIHF World Championships in a row (now it is excluded, last year the tournament in Group A where the Belarusians play didn’t take place because of coronavirus) and both teams were virtually crossed out from the list of participants in the 2022 European Winter Festival, though they managed to play in a hockey tournament where Belarus had silver medals, our team had bronze.

The hockey glitterati consist of countries that have a harsh stance on Russia, and the hardest thing will be to return us and Belarus to the international space. Moreover, in hockey there is a nuance that is absent in many team sports. So world championships in all categories (national, youth, junior) are held in leagues and it isn’t ruled out that Russia’s comeback will be humiliating by providing a sport in the weakest third division with Luxemburg, Turkmenistan, Turkey, SAR and others among national teams and Hong Kong, Israel, Mexico among junior teams. Moreover, several countries — Australia, Bulgaria, Iceland, New Zealand, Taiwan — are in two or even three above enumerated tournaments and can express their unwillingness to play with Russia as it happened in many sports this winter.

Who is to blame?

Sadly, the management of the Russian Hockey Federation isn’t ready for such events, including because during the previous years Russian hockey didn’t face international pressing. It avoided it before the 2018 Olympics that made our biathlon, bobsleigh, skis stronger and downed our athletics.

The management of international hockey is against us, and it is both President Tardif and Vice President Brzhiza from Chechia. And our administration in the person of Tretyak isn’t viable. Since the International Hockey Federation suspended Russia’s membership, we missed the whole season, and it is the world championships for national, youth, junior, women’s teams.

The Solidarity Games, the Spartakiade of the Strongest taking place now should compensate Russians from different sports for the absence of international competitions. As for hockey, there is nothing. There are catastrophically few countries in hockey that could afford cooperating with Russia. Clearly, it is Belarus, perhaps Kazakhstan and China. Moreover, the Celestial Kingdom has always an option of citing a real or false coronavirus outbreak. Therefore we should think.

What to do?

The simplest thing is to create team Canada made of foreigners who en masse play in KHL teams for potential tournaments. The story isn’t new, such a team is regularly made up to compete, let’s say, in the Spengler Cup. Though measures are already taken abroad (Latvia, Chechia) to ban local hockey players from playing in Russia. Or fight for returning to the international community using all legal opportunities including precedents when IHFL and then IIHF contradicted themselves when holding championships, violating all possible rules, including unwritten ones. by the way, the new 2022 IIHF WC is one of them.

Everything began much earlier. The return of the FRG and Japan that started World War Once to the number of members of the International Hockey Federation in 1951 became a decision discriminating our country. Whereas the Soviet Union that won the war was included only on 31 December 1951, later than the Nazi states it defeated. In 1969, the same FRG hosted a junior championship (under 19), though one year earlier the Germans withdrew from the championship because of refusing to play team Czechoslovakia and seemingly for this they got the right to host the U18 competition. and this is the decision of the IIHF President that was called IHFL during those years, Englishman Jon Ahern.

Bulgaria that had a flu epidemic withdrew from the U19 championship in 1976. Romania did a year later. The problem was bigger there because there was an earthquake, 1,500 people died, an emergency was declared in the country. In 1982, team Poland wasn’t ready to play in the 18 WC (the players became younger), but German Gunther Sabetzki who became the new IHFL president didn’t understand the situation of countries from Eastern Europe three times in a row. Why was Canada given a chance of restart now. Like in 1987 when Canada and the USSR were disqualified for a mass fight during the youth WC. The total disqualification was going to exclude both countries from the next youth championship, but it didn’t happen.

A bit of history

Finally, here is some history about the U18 competition that was a European championship but became a world championship. In 1999, team USA joined eight European teams, and for this, the Superleague rose to 10 competitors. Ukraine was lucky because it was going to leave the tournament. In 2002, Canada was added to the 10 teams, and Ukraine was again lucky because it was going to leave but it stayed by increasing the number of teams in the Superleague to 12. To reduce it to 10 again in 2003. And here is a question again: how Canada and USA were included to the number of competitors of the Superleague instead of going there through lower leagues. Like teams Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia did because of the dissolution of the USSR, like team Slovakia did because of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and team Slovenia because of the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

A bit of history in the end. In late 1956, Nikita Khrushchyov gave Finland several territories of the Karelo-Finnish Republic (Porkkala Udd peninsula among them where a Soviet military base was located), abolished the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Republic not to “confuse” Finland. 40 years later, during the rule of Boris Yeltsin, our team competed in the Karial Cup in 1996, which is translated as the Karelia Cup. Assumingly, it is a sort of beer but in fact, it is Finland and local Hartvell beer company’s “phantom pains” recalling the former territory of the country. The label of the beer bottle pictures the emblem of Karelia. But neither the management of the country in the person of the Russian Foreign Ministry nor our hockey federation protested even once keeping this in mind. And the national team participated in the Finnish tournament with separatist definition for a quarter of the century. Now this historical absence of principles has a boomerang effect.

Jaudat Abdullin

The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.