Every year KHL TV provides live broadcasts of the opening and closing matches of the Gazprom Neft Cup. The popular sports commentator, Dmitry Fedorov, who worked on the Cup Tournament last year, shared his impressions with us.
— You worked on the Gazprom Neft Cup Final in 2013. What were your feelings after the match?
— Obviously, it’s wrong to compare child and adult matches, and yet... do battles on the ice have a particular passion and interest when there are young boys on the ice?
— There is a certain joy, a feeling that the sport is for fun, not for work, as you often feel with adult players. And you always hope that children will live better than us. Such fairy-tale playing conditions just didn’t exist in the 1990s or the 2000s.
— What do you see as the main features of the Tournament, what makes it unique?
— What the Tournament does best is to make children feel like grown-ups! They are playing in KHL arenas. The Cup has a rich, up-to-date, informative website, and being on TV is a big incentive for any young ice-hockey player. And, of course, there’s the fact that that the Tournament is organized by Gazprom Neft — the leading Russian oil company. So we are talking about a completely different level of responsibility for ten-year-old athletes. It’s important, though, that all this doesn’t overtax the child’s psyche — it’s good to inspire, but not to overload. The coach’s job is to put the correct emphasis, so that the kids aren’t overawed. I have a degree in pedagogics and I am convinced that you have to set high standards if you want to bring out the best in children — both intellectually and in sport. You mustn’t overload a child, but he has to have ambitious targets. A tournament like this is an important part of growing up.
— Some say that for 10- or 11-year-old boys what matters in a competition like this isn’t winning but taking part. What do you think? Can you push players for results at such a young age?
— In our society, you need to develop a healthy competitive spirit. People say that money rules the world. I don’t agree. The competitive spirit comes before the mercantile spirit. Sport operates as a social elevator. So I think it is important to aim for a result, to compete and try to win. But, of course, losing mustn’t be seen as a disaster. Again — it’s the coach’s job to put that across.
— The geography of the Gazprom Neft Cup is constantly expanding. Will matches against foreign teams be good for Russian children?
— Definitely! Playing against teams from another country is something special — it’s a different league, a higher league. And the boys learn from each other — the European teams have a valuable experience to share.
— How important is it that everything should be laid on to the highest standards for the young players? Do you think it can influence whether they decide to become a professional ice-hockey players?
— Anyone who has done well wants to do at least as well next time. Children who make it to the Gazprom Neft Cup have already done well. They will want to play again on a fine arena with fans and the media watching. The kids in Minsk and Omsk will be shown a new standard — in sport and in life. Then it’s up to them. If they want to go on succeeding, they will make the effort.
— What do you think about the state of children’s ice hockey in Russia? Will the Gazprom Neft Cup help find future stars?
— What we hear from people who are professionally engaged with children and youth ice-hockey in Russia gives cause for concern. We are falling behind other ice-hockey nations, though particular regions, cities or schools can still be outstanding. Certainly the Tournament will identify promising players — it’s bound to!
— How do you see the future of the Tournament? What would you wish to the Tournament players?
— Seize the moment! Grown-ups have worked hard to give you a chance to show what you can do. So try your best! Be heroes today and make history today, so you don’t have to regret a missed opportunity tomorrow!