The most important trophy of the Kontinental Hockey League took in the sights of Kazan on its free day between Games 1 and 2 of the final series.
On Friday, the Gagarin Cup boarded the train in Moscow and set off for Kazan to attend Game 1 of the final series of this 10th KHL Championship, contested by Ak Bars and CSKA. On the day of the opening game, which ended in a 2-1 victory for the host, the trophy only had a fleeting glimpse of the city as it sped from the Central Station to the Tatneft Arena.
For the Gagarin Cup, April 15 in Kazan began with a visit to the Ak Bars children's hockey school. The lessons, for children born in 2009, weregradually winding down when the surprise visitor appeared on the ice: the most coveted trophy of the KHL. It is hard to describe, but doubtless easy to imagine the joyful commotion which erupted when these wide-eyed youngsters spotted the Gagarin Cup.
Team coach Alexander Mityagin had prepared well for the event, and had taken a flexible approach to the day's learning so that this special occasion would pass without a hitch. He listened carefully to the all the requests from photographer Andrei Golovanov, who needed to play the part of a theater director to ensure the most professional results. In all, the Cup spent about an hour being pictured with Tatarstan's young stars of the future. and their parents.
The children, in turn, expressed their gratitude, spoke of how their encounter with the trophy had given their motivation an additional boost, how they look up to today's heroes in the current Ak Bars team, for example, Vladimir Tkachyov and Justin Azevedo, and how they hoped the Gagarin Cup would remain in Kazan for the coming year.
Coach Alexander Mityagin said:
– For the children, the arrival of the Cup stirred up a whirlwind of emotions, but happily, all of them got at least a touch on the trophy, and some patted it, whispered to it, and dreamed of winning it. For a hockey player, the Gagarin Cup is like the Holy Grail. We found out about this visit only yesterday, but we still had 100% attendance.
We need events such as these at every club and in all our cities, as they provide a lot of the motivation the kids need, and this aids further development. Now they see with their own eyes what they are aiming for. It has the same effect on us coaches, giving us the will to improve and develop.