On Sunday, the 14th of January, the 2018 Week of Hockey Stars in Astana reached its thrilling climax with a hard-fought, 5-4 win by the Tarasov Division over the Chernyshev Division in the final of the All-Star Game mini-tournament. With the festivities finally over, KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko, IIHF President René Fasel, and Astana Mayor Asset Issekeshev gave their views of the past few days' events in the capital of Kazakhstan.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the KHL:
- The contest between the four Divisions already proved a success last year, and today once again, the mini-tournament kept us all in suspense right to the end. We have hit upon a very good format, and one which enables us to make the All-Star Game product even more attractive. All four of the young players performed superbly, and two of them – Geraskin and Kovalenko – each scored a double. I think this will help their careers immensely.
I'm sure everyone noticed and was impressed by the high level of organization here in Astana, and this was the result of the excellent collaboration between the Mayor of Astana and the Organizing Committee. And according to the Mayor, today's attendance at the Arena was an impressive 10,298. We would also like to thank the members of the press for their work in attracting so many spectators. We deployed many new methods of promoting the event, including via social media. We saw some very exciting contests, and the players were relaxed and had the confidence to try the kind of plays which would hardly be possible during an ordinary game for their clubs. The fans loved it, and I'm sure the All-Star Game brought the KHL to a wider audience.
- There is talk of Helsinki hosting the next All-Star Game.
- Helsinki is one of the candidates. Our selection process is somewhat similar to that of the IOC for choosing cities to host the Olympic games. We use the same technology. The most important is the set of criteria with which you select the winning city. If you remember, when we were examining candidates for this event, Astana had three very serious rivals. It was the city's impressive level of support from the fans which tipped the balance in its favor, and we will see which venue is favored by the supporters when we are evaluating bids to stage the next All-Star Game.
- Will the All-Star Game format remain the same?
- We will not change the Week of Hockey Stars format, because the KHL comprises three leagues: KHL, YHL, and WHL.
- A handful of coaches refused to come to Astana.
- There was nothing sinister in that. All had entirely valid personal reasons for not traveling, and I will not discuss them in detail. We were very happy with the coaches, and with the idea of having women TV presenters assist them. That was one of the highlights.
René Fasel, President of the IIHF:
- I share Dmitry's view. I saw a lot of satisfied fans here, and Astana made all that possible. The players really enjoyed it, and my stay has been a pleasant one. We've had interesting weather, as I'm not used to -29C. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Old New Year.
Asset Issekeshev, Mayor of Astana:
- We are very pleased to welcome our guests. It is a great honor for this city to host this major hockey event, and we are grateful to René Fasel and Dmitry Chernyshenko for coming here. We achieved a lot in our joint work with the KHL.
As you know, this year our city celebrates 20 years as Kazakhstan's capital and we are marking 10 years of the KHL, so it is fitting that we were granted the right to host this festival of hockey. HC Barys has been a distinguished member of the League since the very beginning, we are building a great hockey base, and more and more people are becoming fans of the game. Our successful staging of this event will be a great stimulus to the development of hockey in our country. Astana wants to become the favourite for everyone across the Asian continent - a place which regularly stages major sporting and cultural events. We are ready to hold events like this every year.