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How will ice hockey be developing in Belarus?

Representatives of the American company Uber (this is a very well-known large company) came to Belarus this week. They praised Belarusian IT sector and said they intend to launch in Belarus cars of the future (without drivers). 

There are many clever heads in Belarus. However, what about sport and ice hockey in particular? Wings, legs, tails... Yes, all this is important. Both programmers and hockey players should both bring victories - that was the leitmotif of the meeting hosted by President Lukashenko on development of ice hockey in Belarus.

Mr Lukashenko, the head of the National Olympic Committee, a hockey player and the President of the country, is alarmed by the situation in ice hockey. Yevgeny Pustovoy has more details.

Hockey for Belarus is as important as the IT sector since it has become the national brand of Belarus.

However, the latest developments have not been pleasing for Belarus at all: the country has struggled to keep its place in the IIHF elite division for two years now.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
Today it's not a fight, but a battle, especially in ice hockey. But Belarusian players go skating, not playing ice hockey. And look at them, they are building some strategies. Like this one: 'Belarus is set to lose to the strongest teams at the IIHF World Championship but it needs to win the rest of matches against weaker opposition.' We need to play first of all! Even against the Canadians, the Russians, and the Swedes. We must play and fight. Even if you lose, but play from your heart, the people will forgive you.

Belarus remained in the top flight in 2017 again but took only 13th place out of 16.

Semyon Shapiro has recently been appointed head of the National Ice Hockey Federation. While still governor of the Grodno region, he brought several regional clubs to the playoffs of the Belarusian championship. Now the task is the same but the scale is different.

Alexander Lukashenko:
The governors were made responsible for this and keep in mind: you will be controlled. If only he calms down, he will not work as chairman of ice hockey. But he will not calm down and he will make you work too.

Belarus has more than 25 specialized schools and about 5,500 hockey-loving young Belarusians, but there is no suitable replacement. For now. Now the problem of Belarusian ice hockey is the presence of internationals, even in the national team. The question is whether the efforts to attract them were justified.

Mikhail Zakharov, head coach of the hockey club Yunost:
With the advent of foreign coaches, everything has just fallen apart, literally right away. We were told that foreign countries will help us, that they have NHL coaches, Canadians, but I did not see a single advantage of this.

However, the number of internationals will not be cut instantly. The new head of the hockey federation proposes to leave four international spots and reduce this number by one more each year.

Semyon Shapiro, Chairman of the Hockey Federation of the Republic of Belarus:
The youth is developing largely thanks to internationals. Their presence in the team will increase the level of internal competition.

The main goal is to find and raise players through the domestic championship. But now its level is far from high. Out of 22 Extraliga teams, only about a third are really competitive. Others concede about 10-15 goals per game. This makes even the strongest teams relax.

Alexander Shamko, Minister of Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Belarus:
It's not budgets but teams who should be playing and their level should be comparable. Undoubtedly, competition between only two or three teams in the republic does not make this championship attractive.

The Second League will now become a place for youth development.

Mikhail Zakharov, head coach of the hockey club Yunost:
Where did the 17-year-old Laine play? In the team of masters. Where does Aho play? In the team of masters. But when it comes to Belarus, even U18 and U20 teams are a little bit behind. When playing among their own peers they shine but they cannot put up the same performance when playing against seniors. The coaches will prepare hot prospects in the team of masters, definitely. I have no doubt about this.

In the meantime, competition in the Belarusian national ice hockey team is small. Therefore, each major city has to have its own team. Clubs should organize their youth branches, everywhere where ice palaces are built.

Alexander Lukashenko:
When there is a team, people will come and root for it. This means the spirit of your town, after all. And under this team there are reserves and a U18 team and a youth school. 500 people should be involved at least.

The President paid attention to the fact that hockey kits and equipment is not produced in Belarus.

Material rewards should be closely linked with places in the standings. The financing will be divided into two stages. All teams will still receive basic support, but bonuses will be given based on results. This is a worldwide practice.

Alexander Lukashenko:
Salary should be minimal. Pay for results though. And we need to add prizes for the results achieved in the domestic championship. Then they will be more willing to play here. They have green eyes, look, they all have green eyes. No brown or blue eyes, just green.

Mikhail Zakharov, head coach of the hockey club Yunost:
My eyes are not green. At the Olympic tournament in Vancouver, when I headed the national team of Belarus, I worked half a year with this team and did not have a contract at all.

The theme of coaching motivation has been one of the main issues in the development of ice hockey. Yesterday's athletes want a lot and immediately. If they are offered a coaching position, they want it at Dinamo Minsk. The President's order: appropriate conditions must be created everywhere, but those who do not think about money should be paid better.

Alexander Lukashenko:
A responsible man came and brought order there. Well, we must reward him for that so that everyone else sees that you can earn much for your zeal and passion for your work.

Dmitry Baskov, director of the Minsk Children's Sports School Dinamo:
It's not even about money. It's about the fact that there is serious competition. Today we are all in the elite, including the senior national team but it's harder and harder for us to compete against the top six ice hockey nations.

In 2021, Belarus, together with Latvia, will host the IIHF WM again, after the successful debut of Minsk in 2014. The main thing is to fight, says the President.

Alexander Lukashenko:
Those who personify this championship offered to give up the fight and give it to Finland. I strongly rejected this idea. If we agreed with the Latvians, so we must fight, I said to myself. Therefore, think about what gift you give to the Belarusian people in 2021.

Belarus has decent ice hockey traditions. The President notes: the task of Semyon Shapiro is to collect older and younger hockey generations in one squad which will melt the ice of problems in Belarusian ice hockey.

How will ice hockey be developing in Belarus?