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How can Belarusian ice hockey be reformed after IIHF WM 2017 failure?

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko held a meeting on the development of ice hockey in Belarus on May 25. He said this is a truly national sport for Belarus, but players sometimes don't put up a fight and lack morale. A number of topical issues were raised at the meeting. Changes are on the way in this sport. Many of them are associated with the appointment of new chairman of the national ice hockey federation, Semyon Shapiro.

The main problems in this sport are associated with the senior national team. Among the issues is the lack of competition for the place in the squad. Coaches can select from 60 people, that is, every third is in the squad. There are no bright leaders in the team. This was shown by the last world championship. To change the situation radically, Belarus needs to establish the whole scheme of the functioning of the national ice hockey and start with youth teams. This is the only possible source of 'fresh blood'.

Semyon Shapiro:
There will be a training center for our youth teams. It will also receive a certain direction in development. At 20 the players will already play in the Extraliga. We will pay attention to those guys who leave this school at 20 so that they improve their skills in Dinamo Minsk and Dinamo Molodechno up to 23.

Hours for mass skating will be shortened at arenas to give more time for ice hockey schools. Paradoxically, many schools do face the problem of lack of space on ice. Many palaces have been built over the last decade in Belarus, but there is still not enough place for young ice hockey players.

Yevgeny Alinkin, coach of youth sports school in Brest:
Our Ice Palace's skating rink is loaded heavily. We cannot afford to find time on ice for different age groups separately. Therefore, we skate together. On average, there are about 60 people on the ice. Sometimes, from hopelessness, we grab the middle of the rink and ride with small children. Somehow we find a way out.

Among other problems are lack of qualified coaches, low salaries in regions outside of Minsk and the fact that children sometimes find it difficult to get to skating rinks. The President instructed to resolve these issues, including transporting young players from neighboring towns to ice hockey rinks and paying decent salaries to youth coaches. There are 25 hockey schools in Belarus. Many are just starting to work.

Dmitry Baskov, director of the Sports School Dinamo Minsk
Representatives of the country's leading schools - Dinamo and Yunost will go to regional schools and share experience. Yes, it's easier in Minsk, there are former hockey players, there are qualified coaches, but we need to work further in other regions.

The ice hockey school Dinamo is the most successful in the country. It won six out of the eight possible awards this season.

Denis Bulgakov, youth coach, Dinamo Minsk:
At our school, there is reserved ice for the training process. That is, we skate six times a week. Plus we train not only on the ice, but also have a gym. We have classes in swimming and wrestling. That is, everything possible is done so that children can progress.

Hence the result. A full-fledged training process has been organized. Highly specialized mentors will help improve it. Among such specialists are coaches in physical training, skating and goaltenders coaches.

Ivan Anoshko:
I came here at five. I asked my parents to come here. This was because I saw how senior Dinamo Minsk played. I liked it.

In Belarus, a decision has been made to accept children to ice hockey schools at the age of 6 instead of the previous 7. However, it is not enough to bring the child to the ice. He must be equipped, which is expensive, but necessary. In Belarus, it was decided to study the production of ice hockey ammunition, at least for children.

Yekaterina Zhilyanina, CTV:
Significant changes are planned in the domestic championship too. Experts agree that the reputation of the Belarusian Extraliga is not high enough. Competition in it is weak. But it's obvious that it's the domestic championship that should be the source of staff for the national team.

Mikhail Zakharov, head coach of HC Yunost Minsk:
I think approach to these local teams will become more serious. If everyone thinks that big budgets are involved in ice hockey, they are mistaken. A small investment is enough for these clubs. These are primarily Brest, Novopolotsk, Vitebsk, Lida, so they become competitive with the same Yunost. Now Yunost beats many teams by a big margin and it has only lost five games in the championship. I think that this is bad. There must be competition.

New teams will appear in large towns like Orsha and Bobruisk, where arenas have already been built but there is no development pyramids from schools to professional clubs. Dinamo Minsk, the best Belarusian ice hockey club, is the main source of players for the national team but its main problem now lies in internationals, both in the coaching staff and in the team. However, Belarusian cannot part with foreign specialists in one day.

Experts on reforming Belarusian ice hockey