The International Hockey League of Legends, one of the most exciting and ambitious projects of recent times, is about to become reality. On Saturday, 3rd of October, Moscow’s newest arena, the VTB Ice Palace, will stage a gala event – the very first game of the inaugural season of the new tournament.
As part of the build-up to this historic occasion, the VTB Ice Palace on Wednesday hosted a press conference featuring a trio of famous names directly involved in implementing the project. All three are former star players who have carved out impressive careers in the sport: Pavel Bure, current president of the International Hockey League of Legends, Alexei Kasatonov, now general director of the Park of Legends sports and leisure complex; and his deputy, Vladimir Myshkin.
The press conference got underway with some words from Dmitry Tugarin, the new league’s executive director, who was clearly pleased that theory had been put into practice. “The subject of our discussions has become reality, and here, on the third of October, we shall hold a gala event in which a team comprising Russia’s greatest hockey legends will face off against a team of Europe’s finest stars of the past. With everything going to plan, we are looking forward to staging three play-off games during November – one each in Germany, the Czech Republic and Finland - and having the winners of this preliminary round come to Moscow in January to contest a final series, here, at the VTB Ice Palace. And as for the long term, here are several more exciting prospects opening up, but we’ll discuss those at a later date.”
Pavel Bure and Alexei Kasatonov asked the assembled members of the press to pass on their invitations to all fans to attend Saturday's opening game, which they promise will be an unforgettable occasion. The full rosters are yet to be confirmed, but Kasatonov assured all that everything is ready for the big day and he let slip enough names - Mogilny, Fetisov, Kamensky, Zhamnov – to capture the spirit and captivate the fans.
As for the quality of the hockey, the two-time Olympic champion was in upbeat mood: “I can say with absolute certainty that we will try to perform as best as I can,' he said, swiftly adding that those of his generation, the over-55s, will be ably assisted by some younger and nimbler veterans.
“Not just the forwards. The goalies are also training hard for the event,” Vladimir Myshkin eagerly added.
Kasatonov responded with some gentle teasing: “Well, we see you as a kind of player-coach, and as an over-60, you’re in a special category.”
“There’ll be younger goalkeepers, too, and they are taking preparations very seriously,” replied the legendary netminder.
The exchange summed up the atmosphere at the gathering – relaxed and informal, but tinged with anticipation of the big event.
The sole negative news item was the enforced absence of Sergei Fedorov from the Legends of Russia team, as he will be on duty in Helsinki with CSKA, of whom he is now, of course, general manager. While in the Finnish capital, in addition to the game against Jokerit, he has an important meeting with some Canadian gentlemen who wish to discuss the small matter of Sergei’s induction into the Hall of Fame. As for the future, the assembled media were assured that the great man will feature heavily in the new league, and the fans can expect, at long last, the return of the legendary troika, Bure – Fedorov – Mogilny.
The message for all hockey fans, then, is as follows: the date to remember is the 3rd of October, 2015, and the venue is Moscow’s VTB Ice Palace.
Don’t forget it, and don’t miss it.