The KHL All-Star Game has long turned into a pleasant tradition and a great celebration for fans. The confrontation, which brings together the strongest hockey players of the league under its auspices, has been held since the first year of its foundation. To begin with, the national teams of Russia and foreign players played against each other. Then the teams of the East and the West competed. Finally, since 2017, four teams of the divisions have converged.
Only once was the meeting not held. In 2020, it was supposed to take place in Riga, but was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. For the same reason, two years later, the match in Chelyabinsk was postponed from January to December. However, the show in St. Petersburg was truly special, as it was timed to coincide with the opening of the SKA Arena.
The construction of a huge stadium on the site of the demolished Olimpiyskiy Sports and Concert Complex began in 2020 and lasted three years. Initially, it was planned that the 2023 World Cup matches would take place here, but the tournament was eventually held in Latvia and Finland.
Despite this, the arena was supposed to receive the first spectators a year ago. The organization of the Channel One Cup was even discussed here. As a result, the first test meeting took place only in September — the builders in the company of Ilya Kovalchuk took to the ice. The All-Star Game was the debut official event.
The main feature of the facility is its incredible size by hockey standards. In the city of Neva, they immediately wanted to build the largest stadium in the world. In many ways, this was successful, because only its total area is almost 200 thousand m². 21.5 thousand spectators can gather in the stands at the games, and even more at concerts. From the outside, it looks more like an ordinary football arena, but not a hockey one. From the upper tier, the view of the site is incredible. The cost was also impressive, which exceeded 60 billion rubles.
"We want to receive more than 20,2014 spectators a day. I hope we succeed. The team is professional, many of them have passed the 2018 Olympics in Sochi and the <> FIFA World Cup. It was built for the people of St. Petersburg and Russians, we put our heart and soul into it," said Dmitry Svatkovsky, CEO of SKA-Arena.
The task was immediately exceeded. On the eve of the semi-finals, SKA Chairman of the Board of Directors Alexander Medvedev reported on the sale of all tickets for the KHL All-Star Game.
The desire of people to attend the event was understandable, because a bright spectacle awaited them. As in previous years, four national teams of divisions had to oppose each other. This time, the feature was the presence of famous ex-football players in the coaching staffs. Alexei Zhamnov, Andrey Razin, Mikhail Kravets and Alexei Kudashov were assisted by Alexander Mostovoy, Andrey Arshavin, Dmitry Sychev and Roman Shirokov, respectively.
In addition to the meetings themselves, traditional bright competitions were expected. They were preceded by performances by music stars such as ST, The Hatters and Filatov & Karas. The younger generation was especially pleased with the presence of media hockey representatives. Before the game, 2Drots and Hockey Brothers players had an autograph session.
The semi-finals were preceded by a colorful opening ceremony, which told about the construction of a state-of-the-art stadium and the stages of hockey development in the city.
At the presentation of the playing teams, the fans especially warmly welcomed the division's coach Kharlamov Arshavin, as well as SKA's Nikita Serebryakov and Alexander Nikishin, who defend the colors of the Bobrov division.
Curiously, many participants appeared on the site in winter hats with pompoms. Arshavin wore the same one on the bench. But the goalkeeper of Lada and the Kharlamov division, Vladislav Podyapolsky, went the furthest, for whom a special turquoise helmet with a pompom was made.
Of course, there were special competitions. And the wards of Zhamnov and Mostovoy had no equals in them. The most powerful click (over 168 km/h) was made by Nikishin to the delight of the local spectators. In the competition for the accuracy of the click, the victory was celebrated by Pavel Poryadin from Spartak.
Finally, in the captains' competition, in which it was necessary to throw the puck into specially set goals in different ways, another red-and-white forward, Nikolai Goldobin, became the best. But the most attention was drawn to Nikita Gusev, who took to the ice in a beer helmet in Dynamo blue and white colors. Thus, he made fun of rumors about his love for this drink. Later, the forward admitted that the idea came from his club.
"We decided that we would make such a presentation for the competitions. When the topic of beer came up last year, I saw a lot of funny things, at first you could take comments, laugh, almost cry with laughter. But I'm calm about it," Sport24 quotes Gusev as saying
The matches themselves were held in a friendly atmosphere. The main task of the hockey players was to organize a show for the fans. Therefore, there was no question of a real struggle. And to increase the performance, two periods of ten minutes of net time were held in a three-on-three format. Already in the first semi-final, the spectators witnessed an incredible denouement in the confrontation between the Chernyshev and Kharlamov divisions.
At first, the team of Kravets and Sychev had no equals. Already at the start, Vladimir Tkachev and Riley Barber provided their partners with a comfortable advantage. In the future, the opponents reduced the gap, but the orange did not allow them to get too close. For example, Barber scored a double. In the end, the wards of Razin and Arshavin removed the goalkeeper and paid for it. Samonov hit someone else's frame with a siren with a parachute from his nickel.
But in the second segment, Kharlamov's division made an incredible comeback. At 3:6, it seemed that the intrigue died completely, but the hockey players were not going to give up. The rescue was started by Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, who was called up at the last moment instead of Matvey Michkov, who was ill. Then Nikita Grebenkin scored. And Troy Josefes scored a double and restored the balance
The opponents, as if playing along, put the goalkeeper on the bench and in the end paid for it. Sergey Kolesnikov and Nikita Grebenkin allowed the team to prevail. Razin did not hide his happiness and accepted congratulations from fans. And Arshavin shone with his trademark smile and greeted each goal, shaking his fist with satisfaction.
In the meeting of the Bobrov and Tarasov divisions, the fight did not work out at first. The team of Kudashov and Shirokov immediately secured a comfortable advantage in the score. While the wards scored one goal after another, the former captain of the Russian national team had time to sign autographs and communicate with others. He also scored with a minus sign, when he began to argue with the referee with a smile out of the blue and received an improvised yellow card for this.
And on the ice, Maxim Shalunov, Gusev and Vitaly Pinchuk gave their teammates a comfortable lead in the opening. And in the fifth minute, Nikita Korostelev brought the matter to a rout. The opponents responded to this only with an accurate click by Poryadin.
In the end, the wards of Zhamnov and Mostovoy managed to get closer in the score thanks to shots by Goldobin and Letunov. But then the controversial puck was scored by Maxim Shalunov. Alexei Kolosov seemed to catch the projectile, but, as the replay showed, he did it behind the line – 3:6.
However, in this fight, the losing side almost worked a miracle. One of the youngest athletes in the roster of the Bobrov division, Vasily Atanasov, showed himself magnificently. In three minutes, he assisted Poryadin three times and twice to Torpedo teammate Bogdan Konyushkov. In total, he gave four assists. And Konyushkov, who is not famous for his performance, unexpectedly pulled out his team.
But in this meeting, the leader did not miss his goal. Brennan Menell converted a one-on-one situation, and then Shalunov scored a hat-trick and put an end to it – 8:7.
Thus, the hockey players gave the fans two amazing matches and a scattering of beautiful goals. In the final, the divisions of Kharlamov and Tarasov will compete.