The 6th Christmas International Ice Hockey Tournament under the auspices of the president of Belarus is to begin in Minsk on January 4.
The tournament, which government-controlled media have called "an unofficial world championship among amateur teams," features a Belarus squad captained by Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
At the first stage of the January 4-7 tournament, the squad, which also include the 55-year-old Lukashenka’s sons Viktar and Dzmitry, are to play teams from Slovakia, Switzerland and Ukraine, while teams representing Canada, Germany, Finland and Russia form the other group. The roster of the Lukashenka-captained team features many prominent relatively young retired players of the national team, including Mikhail Zakharaw, currently head coach of the national team, Uladzimir Kopats, Uladzimir Tsyplakow, Aleh Khmyl and Aleh Ramanaw. The “presidential” team won the tournament in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009, and a team representing Russia was the winner in 2007. The hosts aim to win the tournament once again, but it will be difficult to do this, as the opponents have strong players, including those with National Hockey League experience, Belarusian Sports Minister Aleh Kachan said at a news conference on Sunday. Mr. Kachan said he saw nothing wrong with the practice of making children in organized groups attend the admission-free tournament’s games. It must be interesting for children to look at former hockey stars, he said.