The countdown clock is ticking away and now only hours remain until Sunday, when the 2017 KHL Week of Hockey Stars in Ufa finally gets underway. The event runs from the 15th to the 22nd of January and will bring the biggest showcase events of three leagues – the KHL, Youth Hockey League and Women's Hockey League – together in one great festival. As for the Kontinental Hockey League, the All-Star Game will be held in two stages, with the popular Master Show super skills competition taking place on Saturday, the 21st, and on Sunday the week of celebration comes to a spectacular close with a four-team tournament, comprising two semi-finals and a final and starring the finest players from each of the League’s four Divisions.
Each Division’s team has a roster of eleven players, ten of whom were chosen by the fans, the hockey journalists and the League. The remaining place in each team has been reserved for one of the four best-performing juniors in the Youth Hockey League (YHL) Challenge Cup, which will be played on the opening Sunday of the Week of Hockey Stars.
Striving to guide the greatest players in their Division onward to victory will be the four head coaches:
Bobrov Division: Oleg Znarok (SKA Saint Petersburg)
Tarasov Division: Dmitry Kvartalnov (CSKA Moscow)
Kharlamov Division: Ilya Vorobyov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk)
Chernyshev Division: Fyodor Kanareikin (Avangard Omsk)
In the League’s short but eventful history, the All-Star Game has already acquired a reputation for mixing tradition and innovation, to the extent that serial surprises are now seen as a traditional part of the festivities. This time, a surprise was in store for the coaches, as each has been assigned an assistant who is also a commentator for the Russian sports channel, Match TV.
BOBROV DIVISION. SKA, Team Russia, and Bobrov Division head coach Oleg Znarok, who has been paired with popular pundit and multiple Soviet champion Sergei Gimayev, reacted positively to the news:
“The All-Star Game is a show, and when anyone comes up with an idea to make it even more entertaining, I am in favor. Having a commentator alongside each coach is a novelty for us and for the fans. I know Sergei very well. Not only was he a great player but he has also put in solid work as a coach. He was in charge of the CSKA academy and has coached a lot of junior teams. We’ll have a friendly but professional relationship, and I hope that thanks to this partnership our team will be victorious, or, at the very least, entertaining.”
Sergei Gimayev reacted to the glowing praise with commendable modesty: “Maybe Oleg will trust me with holding up the board.”