Session to discuss development of ice hockey in Belarus

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Commitment and results are the main priorities for Belarusian ice hockey, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the session held on 25 May to discuss the development of this sport in the country.

At the beginning of the session the president emphasized that the state of affairs in Belarusian ice hockey is discussed at his level not because there are great achievements in this field or, as people say, he likes to play ice hockey himself. The reason is that ice hockey and football are the most popular sports.

“Millions of people are not just interested, they are fond of these sports. Almost all people in Belarus like them,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “There is an impact on people’s minds, this is the main ideology of any country. Ideology is not about lectures. A lecture can be attended by 300-500 people at most. An ice hockey match is watched by millions of people. This is the thing.”

“If we decided to develop this sport (it has become very popular here), let’s do our best for it. But the results are bad,” the Belarusian leader stated. “We saw a disastrous performance at the Olympic qualification tournament where we lost to Slovakia although it is was the brightest crayon in the box. We have been on the edge of being relegated for the second year in a row.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that even ice hockey players have a defeatist attitude. “Ice hockey players gave an interview before the last two games. And they said one thing: no one was thinking about playoffs, they only hoped to stay in the top division. This is the attitude of our players.”

According to the president, the results of HC Dinamo Minsk also leave much to be desired. “They failed to fulfill their promises. In fact, our domestic championship did not become the factory where ice hockey players develop their talents. To put it bluntly, there is no domestic championship,” the head of state said.

He stressed that the investments in this sport are quite big – 18% of all spending on physical fitness and sport taking into account the funds from all sources. “One fifth of the money is spent on one sport and there are no results!” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Instead of being proud for the colors of our flag, people just feel ashamed. They even started to send letters to me. And I agree with them. There is no willpower, team play, and individual mastery. The work of coaches is also unsatisfactory.”

The president also reminded about the facts of unprofessional selection of coaches, the lack of ice hockey gear and ice in training centers. There are many systematic problems, small issues which have a negative impact on the training of the sports reserve.

He also deems it necessary to strengthen the national championship with an emphasis on Belarusian specialists. The head of state also asked about the progress in the preparations for the new KHL season.

It is needed to pay good money in ice hockey for good results only, the Belarusian President said. “There will be no money without normal results,” the President stressed. “Your salaries will depend on your results. You are aware of my requirements. If you are ready to earn money yourselves without state subsidies pay as big salaries as you want. But if you take money from the budget be ready to work hard.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that there should be minimal advance payments before ice hockey matches, further payments will depend on results. “There should be normal salaries and additional payments for results. Give good prize money for results at domestic championships,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that some people still discuss certain achievements of Belarusian youth and junior teams. “Stop talking about it. Your positions in the top division are not very strong, it is unclear where you will be tomorrow,” the Belarusian leader said.

“We need results. The national team and HC Dinamo Minsk are in the center of attention,” the head of state stressed.

The President reminded that Team Belarus finished 7th at the 2014 IIHF World Championship, although the results could be better. “What will happen in 2021?” he said. “Please think what present you will make for Belarusian people in 2021.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko criticized the attempts to personalize the victory that gave Belarus and Latvia the right to host the 2021 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship. “Today we will talk about the great achievement. We won the right to host the IIHF World Championship in 2021 and we try to personalize this win. I emphasize again: this is not the victory of specific individuals. The people of Belarus and Minsk did that,” the President said.

If in 2014 Minsk had failed to show it could host such large-scale sports events better than any other country, then the current bid would not have won, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“I can open the secret. Prior to the vote, some two weeks before it, those who personify this win today suggested that I gave up the fight in favor of Finland. I resolutely rejected this idea. Since we agreed with Latvians, we had to fight till the end,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The Зresident also gave credit to Latvia. “They put forward the idea of filing the joint bid. Later on, during a meeting with Rene Fasel (President of the International Ice Hockey Federation), I voiced this idea. He said that it was a good idea, and that we could put up competition to Finland. It is another matter that our traditional friends did not support us. But that is a different story, and is a matter for a separate discussion,” the head of state noted.

Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation Semyon Shapiro informed the head of state about the development of this sport in the country and voiced a number of proposals. The participants of the session also discussed the strengthening of the national championship, the role of extraleague teams in the training of players for the national team.

Special attention was drawn to the development of junior ice hockey in Belarus. A decision was made that children will begin ice hockey training at the age of six in Belarus. To make it easier for parents to buy necessary equipment, the President gave an instruction, for example, to set up the production of sports uniform and other gear, for instance, ice hockey sticks in Belarus.

It is also needed encourage experienced coaches from Minsk to train youth and junior teams in regions. However, it is essential to create all conditions for their work, including decent salaries.

Besides, the head of state gave an instruction to improve the process of educating and training at ice hockey schools. As it turned out, certain directors of such schools prefer to provide services for amateur games and mass skating. As a result, the quality of training of young ice hockey players is worsening because they have less time for training.

At the end of the session a decision was made to work out the state program of ice hockey development for 2018-2021. The document will be focused on the training of the reserve for the national team, the work of coaches, and other issues.