Phil Esposito about Belarusian hockey

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Phil Esposito about Belarusian hockey

Photo: Pressball.by

The legendary Canadian, who in 1972 became the best sniper in the series vs the Soviet team, led by Valery Kharlamov, has come to Minsk.

Phil Esposito came as a special guest to the 2018 Christmas ice hockey tournament. After finishing his legendary playing career, Esposito was the head coach and general manager of the Rangers, then became one of the founders of Tampa, tried his hand at radio and TV journalism, and last year entered the coordinating council of the Chinese Kunlun.

Are you for the first time in Belarus?

Yes, and I'm glad to come to your country. I've been to Russia many times and I've seen a lot there. Belarus and in particular Minsk were on the list of places that I definitely wanted to visit. For now I can't say much because I've just come from the airport. But I look forward to the next three days.

How do you plan to spend them?

Now I will go to the opening ceremony of the Christmas tournament. And in the evening I will watch the broadcast of the match of the World Youth Championship Belarus v Denmark. While still at home in Florida, I saw the first match of these teams. And tomorrow? Oh, it's hard to remember everything. I have a busy schedule in Belarus.

What do you know about the Christmas tournament? Are such amateur tournaments popular in Canada?

Yes. And in the USA, too. But in Russia they are still more popular.    In Florida, hockey is now played by many children and older people. This was not the case 25 years ago, when we had only one skating rink there.  It's actually great. I will be glad to see the Minsk matches. The caliber of the tournament does not matter. You just watch the games and enjoy them. It does not matter whether it's high or low. Hockey in any case remains hockey.

You came here at the invitation of the Chinese team. Will you cheer for them?

Now I really work with Chinese hockey, namely with Kunlun. But in general, when I watch hockey, I do not cheer for anyone. I root for a good game and try to have fun. Actually, I like watching the players who get joy on the ice.

Who of the Belarusian players can you name?

Many years ago, I remember, there was such a Balderis...

He is not from here, but from Latvia.

Oh, is not Balderis from Belarus? Well, then tell me: who of your guys played in the NHL?

Salei, Kostitsyn, Grabovsky...

Is Salei Belarusian? Really? A good player, I remember him perfectly. Since the time he played in the NHL, it's been a long time.

Then Ruslan died in a plane crash with Yaroslavl's Lokomotiv.

Oh, I remember this nightmare. Then the Russian team was trained by my friend Brad McCrimmon - and he also died. What's the name of this town? Yaroslavl. I was there. I arrived six months after the disaster, I visited the place where all this happened. I know that the club had hockey players, who had played in the past in the NHL. All this is very sad.

Are you going to the Olympics in Pyeongchang?

No. I generally believe that professionals should not participate in these Games.

Do you still play hockey yourself?

Sometimes I skate with my grandchildren. And every time I come to Moscow, I play vs Russian veterans - for example, Yakushev. I have played on Red Square three times and that was cool.