How often each day do we use words that, one way or another, are connected with the passage of time? We barely even notice how much we reference the passing of years, days, hours and seconds. And how often are we left feeling that there simply isn’t enough time? In a big city like Moscow, the pace of life is so crazy that it’s not just every second that counts, but every hundredth of a second. Everything happens almost at once: the pressure is on to get there fast, make split-second decisions. The same is true on the ice: hockey is a game where success rests on fleeting moments following long years of practice and training.
The presentation ceremony is a rare moment in the frantic KHL campaign. Only here, and at each season’s closing ceremony, do we get to see the players swap their uniforms for evening wear. It’s a chance for our hockey stars to unwind a little from the pressure of daily competition in the annual race to lift the cup.
This year, the presentation of the players selected for the 2020 FONBET All-Star Game was separated into categories inspired by time; after all, in hockey timing is everything.
At exactly 7:30 pm (the usual start time for KHL games on working days), the lights dimmed and the screens showed clips of highlights from key moments of big games in the KHL. The presenters for the evening, Anastasia Razzaryonova and Dmitry Kozhoma greeted KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko as the evening got underway.
I’m delighted to welcome everyone to Moscow for the FONBET KHL All-Star Week, to the presentation ceremony where we greet our latest stars. This is the fourth time we have staged our All-Star festival in this wonderful, week-long format. We’re all looking forward to a great weekend, full of excitement, in the company of those who are already stars of our game and those who are preparing to become the shining lights of the next generation. The entire hockey world is paying attention to our show this weekend – and that’s not just talk: we can see great interest among fans, and the All-Star Game will be broadcast in many countries around the world.
After the words of welcome from the president it was time for the main event – the presentation of the players for the FONBET KHL All-Star Game. And the thumbnail sketches of each player were also inspired by time – for everyone, there was some detail that could be expressed in relations to hours, minutes or days.
For example, when introducing Julius Hudacek, goalie for Spartak and Team Bobrov, it’s impossible to ignore his unforgettable ‘Huda-Show’, to which he devotes his time after every victory. Dynamo Moscow’s leading scorer, Vadim Shipachyov, meanwhile, uses his time to bond with the fans; not long ago he even gave an interview in a local kindergarten. SKA’s forward Vladimir Tkachyov has demonstrated his speed this season, taking just three seconds to speed down the ice, beat two defensemen and score.
This year’s All-Star surprise package, Dinamo Minsk forward Vyacheslav Gretsky, has been spending plenty of time telling people: “no, we’re not related.” His Team Tarasov captain Kirill Kaprizov gets a like on Instagram every 1.5 seconds. Jakub Kovar, Avtomobilist’s long-serving Czech goalie, is learning to make pelmeni in his free time, while his clubmate Nigel Dawes picks up another point for every 19 minutes he spends on the ice. In this vein, each player was greeted with a witty introduction that combined key stats with interesting tales from his back story.
This year’s assistant coaches are taken from the world of TV, with renowned commentators Dmitry Fedorov, Denis Kazansky, Oleg Mosalyov and Leonid Weisfeld swapping mics for clipboards. They also took part in the presentation ceremony and were given the tricky task of delivering a ‘time-out’; a 30-second speech to prepare their players for a key moment in the game. These pros can do so much more than just commentate and they more than matched up to the task at hand – not surprising, perhaps, since they all play hockey to a decent amateur standard and, in Weisfeld’s case, have vast experience as a referee.
After introducing the players from Team Tarasov, the presenters unexpectedly took us into the future for the announcement of the host city for the 2021 All-Star Game. Dmitry Chernyshenko returned to the stage and told the audience that the honor would go to Riga. Aigars Kalvitis, president of the Latvian Hockey Federation, and Juris Savitskis, president of Dinamo Riga, were on hand to accept the challenge and make a short presentation about the Latvian capital and its plans for next year.
There was also a message from Olegs Burovs, mayor of Riga. “Historically, hockey has been one of the most popular sports in Latvia,” he said. “Thus, it’s no surprise that Dinamo Riga is the best-known team in our country. Riga is a dynamic, modern country and that’s precisely the kind of play that Dinamo loves to show on the ice.
“Dinamo is one of the symbols of our city, a team that our residents can be proud of. And Riga is proud that once again we will welcome the KHL All-Stars. In Riga, we love, respect and treasure our hockey, and our fans are renowned throughout the hockey world.”
The introduction of the players for Team Chernyshev and Team Kharlamov concluded the main part of the show. But there was more to come as the four youngsters whose performance in last week’s JHL Challenge Cup earned them an invite to the KHL All-Star Game returned. Now it was time to assign each of them to a team for the weekend ahead.
The selection procedure was unusual. The four head coaches – Dmitry Kvartalnov, Igor Nikitin, Alexei Kudashov and Bob Hartley – were invited to select a player without seeing him, but merely by listening to his answers to questions about how he spends his time in day-to-day life.
In the end, Alexei Kudashov chose German Shaporev for Team Bobrov. Team Tarasov head coach Igor Nikitin picked Yegor Anisimov. Dmitry Kvartalnov selected Nikita Goncharov for Team Kharlamov while Yegor Chinakhov was Bob Hartley’s pick for Team Chernyshev. Then the youngsters emerged to collect their jerseys from their captains: Kirill Kaprizov, Vadim Shipachyov, Danis Zaripov and Bob Hartley (Chernyshev Division captain Darren Dietz was delayed when his flight from Kazakhstan was caught in a snow storm).
The ceremony ended with FONBET General Director Alexander Paramonov making a presentation to the four junior players. Each received an individual award, and a donation of kit for the schools where they took the first steps on their hockey journeys.
After the ceremony was done, there was time for a group photo with all the participants in the 2020 KHL All-Star Game.
Ilya Sorokin, goalie, CSKA:
The All-Star Game is a special way to spend your time. It’s a chance for us players to get together and get to know each other, and it’s a time when we can really put on a show for the fans. For me, the main thing is to keep growing hockey’s popularity and I hope that the fans have a good time this weekend. Right now, I’m thinking about what I can do to make the All-Star Weekend a memorable one. I don’t want to copy anyone else’s ideas, I can’t do an imitation ‘Huda-show’; nobody else has Julius’s charisma. But I’ll come up with something.
Lauris Darzins, forward, Dinamo Riga:
It’s a great show that we love to put on for the fans. They get closer to us, they can see us in a new light, relaxing and enjoying ourselves away from the serious business of winning games in the KHL. The All-Star Game is a great way to bring the players and the fans closer together and I’ve no doubt that in Moscow everything will be just as great as in Kazan as year ago. And for me, there’s extra motivation to get an invitation again next year, when the All-Star Game takes place in Riga, in my homeland. In Latvia, we know how to stage a super hockey show and I’m already envious of those who will take part in 2021.
Yakov Rylov, defenseman, Spartak Moscow:
I’m really happy to be taking part in my first KHL All-Star Game. I hope I won’t let anyone down. I always used to watch on TV when I had the chance, and now I’m here as one of the players. I hope we can make sure that all the fans who come to the arena have a great time.
Vadim Shipachyov, forward, Dynamo Moscow:
The All-Star Game is a great time to catch up with friends. I’ve played alongside so many of these guys in the past and it’s always fun to meet up at an event like this. I love the All-Star Game. Personally, I’ve not planned much for the Skill Show, but I can let you into a little secret: watch out for Dmitrij Jaskin. He’s got something up his sleeve.
Adam Almquist, defenseman, Admiral:
It’s good to be here representing my club. We’ve got a lot of great players and coaches here. It’s always interesting to get to know the new players in the league. It’s my first time at something like this and I’m sure it will be a unique experience. This weekend gives a chance to get my head straight. We’ve been doing OK at Admiral this season but we want to finish it off by making the playoffs. My teammates have asked me to bring back some baseball caps; of course, I’ll make sure they all get a souvenir.
Alexei Kudashov, head coach, SKA:
The All-Star Game is a chance to see our best players. It’s a real honor for the guys who earned the right to take part. I know how much the fans are looking forward to this, it’s a real festival for them. I’ve been to All-Star Games as a player and as a coach. I think it’s easier as a coach: you stand at the bench and there’s no pressure. But the players still have to go out on the ice and put the work in.
Igor Bobkov, goalie, Avangard:
At the All-Star Game the fans get to see another side of hockey. Unfortunately, we can’t always play pretty when we have to focus on getting results. But here we can show off all our tricks. I can assure you, Linus Omark has something incredible lined up for this weekend. I’m planning a little something as well, but that’s a secret for now. When I get to the arena tomorrow and see what the guys are doing, then I’ll make my final decision.
Yegor Anisimov, forward, Dynamo St Petersburg:
It all turned out great. I’m going to be on the same team as Kirill Kaprizov, you could call it a Novokuznetsk connection. We know each other from before, I crossed his path at school before I left Novokuznetsk. So far we haven’t made any plans, but as soon as we met on the stage, the first thing he asked was how long since I’d been back home!
German Shaporev, forward, Altai:
I was really nervous up there on the stage, I think everyone could see that. And I think all the juniors were a bit nervous, after all, not everyone gets an invite to the KHL All-Star Game. It was a big thrill before the ceremony when Vadim Shipachyov himself came over to shake our hands. So we quickly got to know each other. On stage I had a chance to chat with him some more. Vadim asked where I play and where I come from. It’s good to have a captain who makes everyone feel so comfortable. I think it’s going to be fun working with everyone this weekend.
Nikita Goncharov, forward, Russkiye Vityazi:
I’m really pleased that I landed with a good coach on a good team. We’ve got so many masters here. Straight away I saw Danis Zaripov. I remember when I was just a kid I used to watch him on TV, and now I’m going to be playing with him on the same team. It’s unbelievable! The next few days are going to be great! To be honest, I was shaking today when they announced my name. And my knees were still knocking when I got onto the stage, but when I shook hands with the coach everything was fine.
Yegor Chinakhov, forward, Omskiye Yastreby:
I’m going to be on Bob Hartley’s team, I’m really pleased about that. Now I just need to prove myself in the All-Star Game. I hope I can put on something a bit special, but the Skill Show is really cool. And I need to try to understand all the imports – there are a lot of them in our locker room [laughs].