The first games of the Gazprom Neft Cup were already played on Friday, but the rich pageant of the West Group opening ceremony took place on Saturday evening at the Ice Palace in St Petersburg, reviving the party atmosphere of the recent KHL playoffs.
Ahead of the ceremony the crowd of thousands was entertained by stars of Molodyozhka, the popular Russian TV serial about youth ice-hockey, and the TV stars were no sooner off the ice than the audience was hit by a barrage of sound and light in a laser show that turned the ice from white to all colours of the rainbow, into a dance floor, a Rubik cube, and finally the flags of all the countries represented at the tournament. The show ended with the arrival of the tournament mascot — a huge polar bear cub.
After that, all of the West Group teams paraded on the ice (in Russian alphabetical order, from Atlant to CSKA). There were particularly warm welcomes for the team from troubled Donbass and the home team, SKA. The tournament trophy, the Gazprom Neft Cup, was run onto the ice by the current holders, CSKA.
The teams were greeted by Alexander Dyukov, chairman of the Gazprom Neft Management Board, and Vladimir Kirillov, the Vice-Governor of St Petersburg.