The head of the Sports School at Traktor Ice Hockey Club in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk told us how his 10-year-old students are preparing for the Gazprom Neft Cup.
— What is the role of such big tournaments in developing young ice hockey players?
— Traktor has won medals at the Gazprom Neft Cup on two occasions: in 2011 you took gold, and then silver last year. What is your team looking for this time?
— In any sport, there is only one place and that is first place. This Tournament is the unofficial Russian championship, so we, as one of the strongest children’s schools in the country, are set on taking medals. Standards in children’s ice hockey have gone up, there are a lot of strong teams, so winning will be tough. But we will do all we can to win.
— Which teams do you view as your main competitors?
— As usual: Omsk, Kazan, Yaroslavl, and CSKA.
— The Traktor Youth Sports School of Olympic Reserve currently has 45 children born in 2003 and 30 more play in the Belye Medvedi (“Polar Bears”) team. Do you already know who will be in the team that goes to Omsk?
— I think that the team has mostly been decided. There could be a few changes in some positions, but the outline is already clear. The coaches say that they already know roughly who will be in the team line-ups. But this is sport. There is always the possibility of injury, getting sick, etc., so everyone has a chance of playing at the Tournament. That’s why all of us keep working.
— What do the boys and the coaches say after playing in the Tournament?
— The children come back and tell us enthusiastically how they “battled” with the boys from Avangard, CSKA, and the other teams... They are full of positive emotions. And they are always impressed by the level of organization.
— The lads usually play six games during the four days of the Tournament. Isn’t it hard for them to play so intensely?
— If a child is healthy and in good spirits, he never sits still and is always on the move. I don’t think they lack the physical strength. The main thing is to have enough emotion.
— The Tournament gets a lot of media coverage. Is that much attention good for the children?
— Judging by the children at our School, I have never seen any negative effects in that respect. They don’t get too puffed-up or too downcast... On the contrary, they like the attention. The only thing that upsets them is to go home without a medal.