Dinamo Minsk are newcomers to the Gazprom Neft Cup this year, and they are also hosting the Tournament’s West Group. That means a lot of responsibility for the white-blue team. It is something that players and coaches are well aware of and are taking very seriously.
A sign on the door to the rink strictly prohibits parents from watching their children during training. The boys are on their own from the start. The coaches, headed by Sergei Gromov, are making sure that their players are ready for the Tournament, not just physically, but also mentally. The view of the head coach is that discipline is just as important as hockey skills at this age.
“The lads have a good standard,” the coach says. “Of course, at this age they can’t get everything right at once, and we set them some hard tasks. Objectively, there are more players to choose from in Russia than here. We are giving them special training ahead of the Tournament, and that includes watching game recordings from the last year Tournament.”
The Dinamo boys are trying their hardest. The team for the Gazprom Neft Cup has not been finalized yet, and there are 40 candidates for 20 places. Training is twice a day, morning and evening, and they will soon be playing friendly games versus older boys from the Yunost (“Youth”) and Dinamo schools. But the 2003 boys are ready for the challenge: they all have their sights set on the Tournament, and are eager for the opportunity to play on their home ice.
The head coach has no illusions of easy victory, but he doesn’t write the boys off as outsiders: “Of course we want to win the Cup. But we are not taking anything for granted. We need to weigh up the opposition, see them with our own eyes — perhaps play a friendly match. We are aiming high and I already have an outline of the team. It includes some boys who are natural leaders, and not just on the ice — boys who can be the kernel of a competitive team. The other children rally round them, and that is very important.”
The young Minsk players will be competing in the West Group opening match against SKA (St. Petersburg) on April 20 at the Chizhovka Arena. The match will be shown on KHL-TV.