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NHL. Amateur Championship of Minsk

The Minsk Amateur Ice Hockey Championship has long been well-known, with most people being aware of Minsk’s NHL, the Night Hockey League.

Matches are carried out in the late evening, when rinks are quieter. During the day, professional teams play and train, as do school pupils. Most amateurs are busy during the day of course, working: in offices, in hospitals, and in the civil service.

While passion and devotion unite this tournament with the true NHL, the National Hockey League, the level isn’t comparable. Speeds are slower, and players do sometimes lose sight of the puck. However they match foreign professionals in their desire to win.

Night Hockey League

Competitions of the Night Hockey League take place at the same venues as professional events: the large and small rinks at the Sports Palace, the Ice Palace and HC Yunost’s ice rink in Gorky Park.

The tournament was created long ago, with twelve championships already played. There are currently two leagues (supreme and first), one above the other, and there are more teams than we find in the professional championship, each league comprising fourteen squads.

According to tournament regulations, the worst performing team within the NHL higher league is obliged to drop out, entering the first division, while the winner of the lower league rises to the elite.
Teams in each league are divided into two divisions. In the regular tournament, teams play each other twice within their division, and once against opponents from the other division. The four best teams from each division then continue through to a play-off round.

Legends on ice

The NHL is graced with various celebrities and Belarusian ice-hockey legends, professional veterans rarely being ready to hang up their skates. Dozens of players are former national team members, and participants of world championships and Olympic Games: Alieh Mikuĺčyk; Uladzimir Kopać (who delivered the puck into the Swedish goal, past Tommy Salo, in the Olympic Games in 2002, in Salt Lake City, sending Belarus into the Olympic semi-finals); Vadzim Biekbulataŭ (the former captain of the Belarusian national team); Vasiĺ Pańkoŭ; Alieh Antonienka; Uladzimir Cyplakoŭ; Andrej Kavalioŭ; Siarhiej Šytkoŭski; Aliaksandr Makrycki; and Alieh Ramanaŭ. Fans remember their names well.

From Rubezh to Stolitsa

The unconditional leader of the Night Hockey League remains Rubezh, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. It has won the Minsk Amateur Ice Hockey Championship six times, dominating from 2006 through until 2012. President Lukashenko’s sons, Viktar and Dzmitryj, play for this team.

For a long time, Stroitel was Rubezh’s main rival, taking second place four times across recent six championships. However, in the 2012/2013 season, Stolitsa team, comprising various members of the Minsk police, came to the forefront and, in a dramatic final, defeated Rubezh in overtime, with a score of 5:4.

The organisers of the Minsk Amateur Ice Hockey Championship are the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, the Republican State and Public Association President’s Sports Club and Minsk City Executive Committee. Belarusian Potash Company provides sponsorship.