icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

Kazan chase hockey crown after football triumph

AK Bars. If you're wondering what that means, it might be a good idea to learn Tatar first. The two-time Russian champions took their name from Tatarstan's traditional symbol – the Snow Leopard.

Although the club has a long history by ice hockey, dating back to the fifties, it only became a powerhouse in the sport at the turn of the current century.

As with most success stories in Russian sport, some thanks must go to the authorities.

“Kazan is a city that loves sports. There are many clubs here that claim the country's top trophies,” AK Bars coach, Zinetula Bilialetdinov, says.

“Football, field hockey, basketball, water polo, not to mention AK Bars. These teams are successful because the Tatarstan government dedicates a lot of time and resources into the development of sport,” Bilialetdinov said.

This Continental Hockey league (KHL) is in its inaugural season. It’s primary aim is to one day being rival America’s NHL.

Lots of Russian stars have already returned home to compete in the KHL and even some North American players have made Russia their residence.

In other words, the KHL has had a great start and the league is as competitive as the organisers hoped.

The inclusion of the foreign legion makes it compelling viewing from Moscow to Minsk.

But AK Bars goalkeeper and former New York Islander Wade Dubielewicz says it’s the locals who have been doing most of the grafting – despite his 90 per cent save rate.

“The Russian guys are the core group we use to win hockey games, while the imports are more of the supporting cast,” he said.

If anything counts in sport these days, money does. It can make or break a club.

But spending cash unwisely can sometimes result in immediate success with no thought to the long term. This isn’t the case in the republic of Tatarstan.

With the world student games taking place here in 2013, new sporting facilities are springing up like mushrooms.

AK Bars player, Oleg Petrov, says the club’s youth teams have everything to grow new stars for the main squad. 
 
“The main thing is that kids are playing hockey,” he said.

And that investment seems to be paying dividends for the snow leopards as the Kazan men currently sit second at the mid-season stage.

But anything less than a championship title will be a bitter disappointment for Bilyedinov and Co.

Dear readers and commenters,

We have implemented a new engine for our comment section. We hope the transition goes smoothly for all of you. Unfortunately, the comments made before the change have been lost due to a technical problem. We are working on restoring them, and hoping to see you fill up the comment section with new ones. You should still be able to log in to comment using your social-media profiles, but if you signed up under an RT profile before, you are invited to create a new profile with the new commenting system.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and looking forward to your future comments,

RT Team.

Podcasts