The Christmas Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament brings nations together despite political crises and differences of opinion. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko made the statement during the ceremony held on 3 January to open the International Christmas Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament and the national junior ice hockey competition Golden Puck, BelTA has learned.
The head of state congratulated athletes and fans on the beginning of the new sport year. He remarked that since Belarus is going to host the 2nd European Games Minsk 2019, the year will be a special one for the country. The year will be saturated with bright events of the forthcoming summer competitions, he noted.
Alexander Lukashenko stated: "Today we are opening the Christmas tournament. The first match took place 15 years ago, starting a good tradition. This tournament is unique. It vividly demonstrates that sport unites nations despite political crises and disagreements."
Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that the geography of participants grows larger every year, more and more people want to come to Belarus. "In order to offend none of our friends we've had to change the format of the competition this time. Instead of eight teams the tournament will feature 12 teams," remarked the president.
Teams from Belarus, Russia, Germany, China, the UAE, Slovakia, Finland, Czechia, and Switzerland will compete in Minsk. Teams of the Baltic states, Balkan states, and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) will compete for the main prize of the Christmas tournament, too.
"The ice arena in Minsk will gather true men, who are devoted to ice hockey, men strong in spirit and body, men, who genuinely want to make the world a better place," stated the head of state. "I am deeply grateful for your kindheartedness, for your kind and attentive attitude towards our kids in children's homes. You infuse these kids with faith in people. You help them feel they are needed. You help them feel truly happy. And certainly with your example you give the right pointers – you encourage interest in a healthy lifestyle and high-performance sport."
Alexander Lukashenko went on saying that it is no accident that the final stage of the national competitions Golden Puck is being held alongside the tournament of ice hockey veterans. According to the president, it is yet another good tradition.
"From the depth of my heart let me congratulate participants of the competitions and sport fans on New Year and bright Christmas. May the sportsmen show captivating and productive games. I declare the 15th international Christmas tournament and the 23rd national competition Golden Puck for prizes of the president of Belarus open," said Alexander Lukashenko.