25 April is the final day of the XII Gazprom Neft Cup International KHL Kids Hockey Tournament in Omsk. Moscow’s CSKA took the main children’s ice-hockey trophy in Europe, after beating Ufa’s Salavat Yulaev in penalty shoot-outs in the Super Final with a score of 5:4. More than 7,000 spectators watched it happen from the Omsk Arena’s stands.
In 2018, 26 teams from six countries took part in the Gazprom Neft Cup: Belarus, Germany, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia, and Finland. The German team Jungadler Mannheim and Vladivostok’s Admiral took part in the tournament for the first time. As is traditional, the games took place in two cities, Sochi and Omsk. The battles of the West Group were fought in the Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Iceberg Skating Palace, while the East Group’s duels took place in the Omsk Arena.
More than 10,000 fans attended the opening game in Omsk, while in Sochi more than 8,500 spectators gathered in the stands. All the games in the tournament were shown live on the Cup’s YouTube channel. World ice-hockey champion Alexei Yashin and Match TV presenter Denis Kazansky provided commentary during the West Group final between CSKA and Moscow’s Dynamo.
A modern digital hockey analytics systems was used for the first time at the Gazprom Neft Cup games in 2018. The programme, developed by Russian experts, is based on artificial intelligence technology, computer vision, and big data analysis. That system digitized every player action in the final groups and Super Final: acceleration and movement, physical peaks and falls, shots and passes. The data were used by commentators on the live broadcast of the Super Final on KHL TV. In future, all players and team coaches will have access to professional tournament statistics.
“Throughout the five days of the tournament, we observed an uncompromising struggle, the fantastic commitment of the young ice-hockey players, and their genuine emotions. It is very important for the players that everything at the Gazprom Neft Cup is on the adult level: a high level of game organization, a huge number of fans in the stands, and the opportunity to talk with journalists. I have no doubt that many tournament participants will go on to play professional ice-hockey. We will work to ensure that the Gazprom Neft Cup remains the central annual event in children’s ice-hockey, not only in our country, but throughout the continent,” said Alexander Dyukov, Chairman of the Board of Gazprom Neft.
The Gazprom Neft Cup was established by Gazprom Neft in 2007 as a U11 children’s ice-hockey tournament. Since 2010, the tournament has been co-organized by the Kontinental Hockey League, following which it expanded to include only the kids’ teams of KHL clubs. Since 2018, countries whose clubs are not KHL members have been included on a ‘one team per country’ basis. National ice-hockey federations can choose one kids’ team to take part in the tournament. In 2018, Jungadler Mannheim is representing Germany for the first time, taking the number of participating countries to six: Belarus, Germany, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia, and Finland.
The Gazprom Neft Cup boasts an unprecedented level of organization for a children’s competition: the games take place at KHL ice arenas and are managed by professional referees. The opening ceremony is at the same level as games featuring KHL stars. The main competition trophy was made by the craftspeople who created the Gagarin Cup. Every year the name of the winning team is engraved on the cup, and that team keeps it until the next tournament. Since the Gazprom Neft Cup received its status as the official KHL Kids Hockey Tournament, winners have included Avangard (2010), Traktor (2011), Ak Bars (2012), CSKA (2013, 2014, 2017), Dynamo (Moscow) (2015), and Lokomotiv (2016).
The tournament’s opening ceremony and Super Final are broadcast live on KHL TV. The Russian public sports channel Match TV is the tournament’s general partner, and its media partners are the nationwide radio station AvtoRadio and the newspaper Sport Express. The event’s partners are CCM, Honka, and the Elena and Gennady Timchenko Charitable Foundation.