The official opening of the XIII Gazprom Neft Cup International Kids’ Hockey Tournament has taken place in Sochi on 23 April. Thirty one teams are taking part in the tournament this year, from 10 countries worldwide, including Russia, Austria, Belarus, China, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Slovakia. Austria’s Black Wings, the Czech Republic’s Oceláři Třinec, Slovakia’s Slovan, China’s KunLun Red Star, and Germany’s KEC Die Junghaie are all making their debuts this year. The Gazprom Neft Cup is now the most important non-profit children’s hockey tournament in the world. For the first time in the tournament’s history matches will be taking place in a single city – Sochi – although, as is traditional, matches will be held in two groups, “East” and “West”. The main tournament arena is the Olympic Bolshoy Palace of Sports, where the winners of the East and West Groups will be meeting for the ultimate Cup match, the Super Final, on 26 April.
The tournament opened with representative teams (one delegated player from every team in the East and West groups) meeting in a “Stars of the Future” match – preceded by a unique on-ice duelling competition for players to show off their puck control, shooting accuracy, and skating speeds. The Stars of the Future match, official team parade and the main trophy were all shown live on the KHL-TV channel. The Gazprom Neft Cup official Opening Ceremony was attended by 5,000 spectators, with the representatives of West securing a victory with a score of 3:1.
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the XIII Gazprom Neft Cup International Kids’ Hockey Tournament, Alexander Dybal, Chairman of the Tournament Organising Committee, Member of the Management Board, Gazprom Neft stressed: “Today 31 teams, from 10 different countries, will start their march on the most prestigious trophy in youth hockey. We are delighted to welcome first-time competitors from Austria, China, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia. Such rapid expansion in geographic range has confirmed the Gazprom Neft Cup’s status as the most important non-profit under-11’s youth hockey tournament in the world. I have no doubt we have ahead of us an awesome and gripping celebration of hockey, that these young hockey players will remember for the rest of their lives!”
The Gazprom Neft Cup was established by Gazprom Neft as a U11 children’s ice-hockey tournament in 2007. The company remains responsible for the full financing and organisation of the event. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is the general partner to the tournament.
Tournament competitors come from the junior sides of KHL club teams, with international clubs, not members of the KHL, participating on the basis of ‘one team per country’, as recommended by the appropriate national hockey federation.
All games during the XIII Gazprom Neft Cup will be taking place at the Bolshoy and Iceberg Olympic ice arenas, between 22 and 26 April 2019.
The tournament enjoys an unparalleled level of organisation for a youth tournament, with matches being held at Olympic ice arenas, matches officiated by professional judges, and the Opening and Super Final Ceremonies broadcast live on the MatchTV and KHL television channels. Tournament partners include CCM, Honka and the Elena and Gennady Timchenko Foundation.
Every year the name of the winning team is engraved on the Gazprom Neft Cup, which remains with its new owners 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).