All across the territory of the former Soviet Union and in many other nations around the world, March 8 is a very significant occasion – a national holiday to mark International Women's Day. The athletes in the Women's Hockey League, however, must focus on the forthcoming playoffs, so for most of them the special day was no holiday, but a day of intense physical training in preparation for the all-important knockout stage.
With this in mind, the WHL ensured that the players, after their strenuous exertions, were nonetheless showered with traditional Women's Day gifts – beautiful bouquets of flowers and a hockey-themed cake.
For the Arctic University players, relaxing was not on the day's agenda. The team, which had recently returned to home ice in Ukhta following a tricky road trip to Dynamo Saint Petersburg, turned up for a routine training session. However, the occasion is far too big to ignore altogether, and two important local figures – the rector of the university, Professor Nikolai Tskhadaya, and the hockey club's executive director, Evgeny Vologin – presented the ladies with cosmetics, flowers, and the big Women's Day cake from the WHL.
Diana Bulatova, Arctic University forward:
I want to congratulate all our mothers and grandmothers, and thank them for the faith they've shown in us, and for all their support. We are professionals, so we even train on national holidays, but, of course, this day gives rise to special feelings. Springtime is approaching, and it is wonderful to receive so many congratulations and gifts.
Alina Orlova, Arctic University forward:
The mood is a festive one, and today we have been on the receiving of presents, flowers, and warm words of congratulations. I wish health and happiness to all my nearest and dearest, and hope that all goes well for them. As for us, we will celebrate the occasion in the gym.
Ms Orlova also mentioned the forthcoming playoffs, and said that best present for any hockey player is victory on the ice.
The Krasnoyarsk hockey players received a double helping of festivities this week. On the eve of the big day, the gladiatorial girls were handed flowers and given a special cake decorated with the Biryusa badge, in a celebration laid on by the club's general director, Sergei Rabtsun, and the coaching staff.
On the day itself, after being put through their paces out on the ice, a pleasant surprise was awaiting the team in the locker room: an array of spring tulips and a Women's Day cake from the WHL.
Nadezhda Morozova, Biryusa goaltender:
It is very nice that the League gave us these flowers and a cake, which, by the way, was incredibly tasty, and after such a hard training session we had all worked up an appetite. How do we celebrate the 8th of March? We'll go to the movies, then to the cafe, and then we will get ready for our next training session, which is waiting for us tomorrow!
Over by the Urals, on the border between Europe and Asia, the players also mixed business with festive pleasure. First came a practice match on the ice, with the Yekaterinburg coach joining in the action, and this was followed by Women's Day celebrations comprising the usual congratulations, flowers and cake.
Tatyana Shchukina, Sverdlovsk Region goaltender:
We had a good training session, and even our coach played for us. All who took part thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were full of positive emotions. And, of course, it keeps us in good shape for the forthcoming games. March 8 would have been a normal training day but for congratulations from the management of our club, as well as some unexpected and pleasant gifts from the WHL. Thank you all very much on behalf of our team!
For the hockey players from Tornado, Moscow Region, the 8th of March was a genuine holiday. The current WHL champions recently returned from Saint Petersburg, where they played two matches against Dynamo, and no fewer than ten players in the Tornado roster played in the Olympic games in February. As a result, the athletes were granted a well-deserved day of rest, which they planned to spend with family and friends.
However, the club was determined to help the players mark the big occasion, so they brought forward the Women's Day celebrations by 24 hours. After an on-ice training session on Wednesday, the ladies were congratulated and presented with flowers and cake, courtesy of the Tornado management and the WHL.
Anna Shokhina, Tornado forward:
Thank you all so much! This is a big surprise for us, and it is a huge celebration! It is very nice that for our special day we were given flowers and cake – I tasted the latter straight away, and it is delicious! For the 8th of March, I am looking forward to seeing my mother and grandmother - I shall give tulips to both these ladies – and to just spending some time with my family.
The fairest of all the hockey teams in Saint Petersburg, like most of the clubs in the WHL, held a grueling training session on this special day. When that was done, a select group of men – their fellow players from Petersburg's YHL and VHL teams, plus the Dynamo Saint Peterburg coaching staff – handed them flowers from the WHL, presents, and of course, the gigantic hockey cake.
In Ufa, International Women's Day was also a day of regular training for the hockey players of Agidel. However, before the hard work began, all the girls were presented with a gift from the Women's Hockey League - bouquets of tulips, accompanied by a beautiful Women's Day cake.
Yekaterina Lebedeva, Agidel forward:
Many thanks to the Women's Hockey League for congratulating us on this wonderful spring day. It was very pleasant. The flowers are wonderful, and the cake is delicious! How do hockey players celebrate the day? In fact, like all professional athletes, we are not always able to fully celebrate the 8th of March. It just so happens that this day coincides with important games, so training has not been canceled.
Tatyana Fyodorova, Agidel goaltender:
I liked the event very much, and it was nice of the coaches to present us with some flowers. The cake is wonderful, so thank you, WHL, for such a pleasant surprise! Like most people around the world, we will celebrate International Women's Day with our families.