Cowards Don’t Play Hockey

Posted: October 13, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

On Sunday evening I went to a CSKA hockey game with two French Canadians, an American, and a Russian. It was the first hockey game that I’ve ever been to in Russia, and I was super excited to see the notorious Red Army team, historically one of the best in the country. CSKA is a transliteration of sorts for Центральный Спортивный Клуб Армии (Central Sports Club of the Army), or ЦСКА (TsSKA). It is no longer a team of the Russian Army, but it still has military affiliations.

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The teams take the ice for the national anthem.

For those of you who are in Pittsburgh and are Penguins fans, CSKA had an affiliation with the Penguins in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Pittsburgh Penguins owned a interest in the team for a while, and they were unofficially known as the Russian Penguins. That’s why there are a few CSKA jerseys with Penguins on them. Years ago my parents had given me one as a Christmas present from a mail order catalog that specialized in Russian and Soviet themed items. I didn’t know about this connection, but I’ve worn the jersey to the two Penguins games that I’ve gone to in Pittsburgh. Sadly, my CSKA jersey with a penguin on it is in my storage locker in Pittsburgh.

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I wear this to Penguins games because of the penguin. I didn’t know that the teams were actually related. Also, please note the different in proximity to the ice. To sit that far away in Pittsburgh, I had to pay $35.

Unlike a game at the Consol Center, the tickets for the CSKA game were a super steal, 1,000 rubles or roughly $15, for seats that were in the center of the stadium and not too many rows back from the ice. It was actually funny, because there was a jumbotron that was useless. The players on it appeared smaller that the players on the ice.

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The players didn’t look like ants.

To get to the stadium, we took the metro a few stops out on the green line and then walked for about five or ten minutes. We had to use an above group crossing to cross sixteen lanes of traffic. There were two sets of four lane highways for a total of eight lanes of traffic in each direction. The stadium is an older one that’s part of a giant complex for CSKA sports, including a pool. The ice area was also pleasantly located right next to a Mercedes dealership. The Canadians commented how I basically lost my mind at the intersection of the Soviet sports complex and my beloved Mercedes. I was also happy because a nearby building had one of those revolving Mercedes stars on its roof.

My priority will always be Mercedes.

My priority will always be Mercedes.

We waited in line to pass through security for our sector at the stadium. Upon entering we were all pleasantly surprised by the presence of a military band playing patriotic songs.

Military pep band.

Military pep band.

With a few minutes to kill before the start of the game, we wandered into the ground floor of the stadium to find the concession booths. There were some standard food choices like popcorn and hotdogs, but special for Russia was the availability of corn on the cob as well as bowls of steamed corn.

Sports are the same across the globe. Game snacks, however, are not.

Sports are the same across the globe. Game snacks, however, are not.

The stadium was older, but not terrible. We walked up to our seats and watched the opening festivities for the game, which included ice skating cheerleaders and the horse mascot on skates. After the players took the ice, the military band came out to a stage of sorts that ran along the wall above one of the goals to play the national anthem, the lyrics of which were displayed on the jumbotron.

"For the Motherland, For Victory"

“For the Motherland, For Victory”

The match was against a team from Omsk in Siberia called Avangard. Level of play wise, the game was lower than the NHL. There were lots of missed shots and dropped sticks. The ambiance, however, was fantastic. There was a cheer section complete with giant flags and a drummer that never stopped for the course of each 20 minute period. There were also moments of organ music of Russian patriotic tunes such as Katyusha or Kalinka and general pump up music mostly of the pop/techno variety and not so much rock. The title of this post comes from a Soviet hockey song that played during one of the intermissions that translates to “The Coward Does Not Play Hockey.”

Some of our extra in game entertainment was watching the cheerleaders spaced out around the stairs. There was a set directly across the stadium in our line of sight. The blonde cheerleader basically pulled a left-shark the entire time. She knew but didn’t know what she was doing and was out of sync with the other cheerleaders. The inter-period entertainment featured young Russian figure skaters doing routines, there was 70th anniversary of WWII victory blimp that was flown around.

Figure skating is still huge in Russia.

Figure skating is still huge in Russia.

Sadly CSKA lost to Avangard 2-1 a few minutes into the first overtime period.  It was an exciting game nonetheless, and we have plans to see games of the other Moscow teams.

The faces of super happy North Americans. Canada and the United States getting along in Russia.

The faces of super happy North Americans. Canada and the United States getting along in Russia.

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