18 January 2022, Tuesday, 1:03
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Why Belarusian Fans Happy for Performance of the Ice Hockey Team

Why Belarusian Fans Happy for Performance of the Ice Hockey Team

A number of them wish Lukashenka's hockey players a defeat.

One of the participants in the ice hockey tournament of the Beijing Winter Olympics was determined at the tournament in Bratislava. It was Slovakia who defeated Belarus in the decisive match. Our compatriots failed to qualify for the Games for the third time in a row. What is wrong with Belarusian ice hockey, which has huge investments? Read about it in the article of nn.by.

What happened?

The plan for the current qualification was simple. The Belarusians (14th place in the IIHF ranking) beat the Poles (22nd) and the Austrians (18th). And then fighting for the only trip with strong Slovakia (#8 in the ranking).

But something went wrong from the start. It seemed that the rivals' forces were incomparable:

Belarusians were in the elite division this year, Poles are in the third. But our side lost for the first time to their western neighbours in an official match - 0-1.

The match against Austria ended 5-2 in favour of ours. "The national team in Bratislava has so far played one quality period. Out of six," Pressball stated after the match.

In the end, to qualify for the Winter Olympics, they had to have a regulation-time victory over Slovakia.

Craig Woodcroft's team was first to surrender a goal, then tied it up, but surrendered the decisive goal late in the third period (1-2). Slovakia goes to the Olympics.

What has been wrong with hockey lately?

One could consider this result a coincidence. However, it's no surprise. Belarusian hockey has been in a profound crisis for a long time.

The last time we played in the Olympics was 11 years ago in Vancouver in 2010.

By the way, the Belarusians got there without qualification because of their high ranking. The previous and subsequent attempts to qualify (for the Games in 2006, 2014 and 2018) failed.

The last World Championships were a complete failure. During the 2010s, the Belarusians made it to the quarterfinals only twice (including once at home in Minsk, where some NHL stars didn't show up) and repeatedly teetered on the brink of toppling out of the top division.

In 2018, their luck ran out.

However, the Belarusians won the second division and quickly returned to the elite.

This year, the world was watching our shame. At the latest World Championship, we finished in a penultimate place with only one winning game.

The coronavirus helped, however: no competitions in the weaker divisions were held because of it. No one left the elite, therefore. Otherwise, the Belarusians would have been back among the weaker teams.

Lukashenka's Soviet legacy and infrastructure

Why is it like that? There are many reasons.

Belarusian ice hockey's greatest successes - making it to the elite from the lower divisions during the 1990s, successful performance at the Olympics (the legendary fourth place in 2002) - were based on the Soviet legacy.

At the end of the Soviet Union, Minsk Yunost was twice recognised as the best specialised school in the USSR.

In the 1990s, Aliaksandr Lukashenka became interested in ice hockey. It provided the sport with enormous funding and good infrastructure. Ice hockey arenas appeared throughout Belarus. At that stage, it was effective and contributed to the development of the sport.

Compare with other countries, the general enthusiasm disappears. In Poland, there are twice as many men ice hockey players as in Belarus - 1050, and almost 10 times as many women (320).

In neighbouring countries, the total number of athletes in the sport is smaller only at the expense of children.

"There are 20 people involved in ice hockey in Poland," Lukashenka commented on the loss to the Poles and the performance of the Belarusians at the Olympics

Tons of money and neglect of children's ice hockey

Why don't Belarusian children play professional sports?

Is it a matter of infostructure? In Poland, there are 25 indoor ice rinks and 10 outdoor ones (in Belarus there are 41 and 2, respectively). Although our western neighbours do not have huge state support.

Lack of money? However, Dinamo Minsk goalkeeper Dominik Furch has a monthly salary of $41.6 thousand, head coach Craig Woodcroft, who is also the head coach of the national team, makes $27.5 thousand, while forward Brandon Kozun, who has already left the club, and his tier partners receive about $30.8 thousand.

Indeed, the money is not earned. The team sponsors are Belaruskali and A-100.

The problem lies elsewhere. Such money does not reach junior schools.

For example, in 2017, coach Dmitry Baskov said that "no normal specialist would go to work in the regions with a small salary of 400 rubles". In his opinion, the coach should earn one thousand. This year, Baskov, who is already chairman of the Ice Hockey Federation, admitted that specialists earn 600 rubles.

Potential children's coaches are not going into the profession; the number of players who can play at the top level is decreasing. As a result, Belarusians have to give passports to Americans and Canadians to play for the national team.

Another imbalance occurs in the clubs. The above-mentioned Dinamo Minsk plays in the KHL. The other teams play in the championship of Belarus, which is not very popular and prestigious. The salary in the Extraliga cannot exceed 6,000 rubles (or $2,300). This is a huge amount for ordinary Belarusians but miserable for the KHL. There was no representative of the Belarusian championship in the national team this year.

This year, our compatriots' performance was additionally affected by emotional background. In particular, the attitude of the fans. For the first time in recent years, a number of them wished the team to lose.

The hockey players, unlike representatives of other sports, had almost no reaction to the violence.

In general, the situation in ice hockey proves the general crisis in the country, observed in culture, sports and other spheres.

Strangely enough, the Belarusians - even despite all the circumstances mentioned - could have qualified and made it to the Olympics. We don't have the worst team, with four players under NHL contracts. However, the problems would have remained anyway.