The first games in the 9th Gazprom Neft Cup KHL International Kids Hockey Tournament will be shown tomorrow live on KHL TV. The opening match in East Group (Avangard — Ak Bars) at 16:25 (Moscow time) will be followed at 19:15 by the opening ceremony and game between SKA and CSKA in West Group. Ahead of the games, KHL TV commentators, Vitaly Magranov and Oleg Vlasov, told us what they are expecting
What is special about commenting children’s matches? Have you ever covered children’s competitions before?
Vitaly: “I commented a children’s game for the first time in 2012. It was a Gazprom Neft Cup match and not just an ordinary match, but the Tournament final. To be honest, I was a bit nervous before the broadcast, as I had previously only worked at adult or youth tournaments. But I realized from the first few minutes that I had nothing to fear. It was easier that most adult matches, because Neftekhimik and Ak Bars showed us a real cliff-hanger. They played neck and neck and victory was snatched in the last minute, which is a rare thing even in the top adult competitions. And, of course, watching the children’s emotions made it even more spectacular.”
Oleg: “I have some experience, though limited: I commented last year’s Super Final between Ak Bars and CSKA, together with Alexander Khavanov. I really liked the game, the boys fought hard. For children at that age every game is like an exam! A lot of time in KHL and Supreme Hockey League matches is spent on tactics and in-depth statistics about teams and individuals. With child teams all that is minor and the main thing is emotions, which energize both the spectators and us, the commentators. We really empathize with the children and remember what it was like for us — everyone chased a puck in the yard as a child!”
What do you think a Tournament as big as the Gazprom Neft Cup gives to the young players?
Vitaly: “The more time spent on the ice the better — any children’s coach will tell you that. And taking part in a prestigious tournament with a hyper-competitive atmosphere is bound to help young players make progress in their skills. The Gazprom Neft Cup is watched in many cities. It gets detailed coverage in the media, KHL TV broadcasts matches live. Taking part in a competition on that sort of scale is surely a dream come true for children. And focusing on the Cup puts psychological pressure on the players, which will help them learn how to deal with adult hockey life.”
Oleg: “Most of all, it’s a great experience. Both the match experience, and the experience of communicating with peers from other cities, other hockey schools. And, of course, it’s a great test of strength and endurance.”
You are used to battles in adult hockey, but what do you expect from 11-year-old players?
Vitaly: “First of all, I’m looking for emotions. They are always a feature of children and youth competitions, and they make such competitions more attractive. It will be interesting to look at the young stars, who are bound to emerge, and are destined for a life in top-class hockey. A few years later we will be able to look back and say: “I saw this guy play when he was 11 years-old. And he was great even then!”
Oleg: “People say: goals make a hockey game! I hope the Tournament will be high-performance and great to watch, and that the players will put their heart into it. It’s always nice to see the genuine emotions of young hockey players, to see how pleased the boys are with each goal. I wish them all the good luck and hope they will show us their best hockey!”